Provisions for Younger Sons and Daughters in the English Landed Class 1700-1850: Primogeniture; Forced Heirship or Anarchy

Lloyd Bonfield, New York Law School

Primogeniture as the inheritance custom with respect to freehold land in England was not abolished until the twentieth century though appeals to change the inheritance custom were mooted in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Indeed a bill was introduced into the Commons in the mid-1830s (twice in fact) which sought to replace it with partible inheritance. Although the bill failed to garner sufficient support to pass, the tenor of the debate and the pamphlet literature that accompanied it brings to the forefront the counterpoised familial, social and economic interests that supported the existing system of inheritance. The debate highlighted the difficulties that obtained in undoing two hundred years of land settlement practice and patterns of intergenerational distribution of land in the landed class.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 6. Love and Marriage? Material Considerations and Couple Formation in the Past