Marriage, A History

Marriage, A History

From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage

Book - 2005
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Just when the clamor over "traditional" marriage couldn't get any louder, along comes this groundbreaking book to ask, "What tradition?" In Marriage, a History, historian and marriage expert Stephanie Coontz takes readers from the marital intrigues of ancient Babylon to the torments of Victorian lovers to demonstrate how recent the idea of marrying for love is - and how absurd it would have seemed to most of our ancestors. It was when marriage moved into the emotional sphere in the nineteenth century, she argues, that it suffered as an institution just as it began to thrive as a personal relationship. This enlightening and hugely entertaining book brings intelligence, perspective, and wit to today's marital debate.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2005.
ISBN: 9780670034079
067003407X
Branch Call Number: 306.8109 COONTZ
Characteristics: xi, 432 p. ; 25 cm.

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BPLNextBestAdults Jun 05, 2012

We have been led to believe that the Leave It to Beaver format marriage of the 1950s is the most natural. However, if one looks at the institution over the ages, it is but a blip and not necessarily natural. Throughout the ages, marriage customs have been influenced primarily by politics, economics, and social conditions. Marriages were often arranged to forge alliances between kings and nobles, or to acquire a neighbour’s field. Although love and passion were factors in the affair between Antony and Cleopatra, politics also played a large role. The roles of husbands and wives changed constantly. To be sure, sometimes love entered into the equation and, if lucky, the love was between spouses.

Stephanie Coontz describes the various types of marriages that existed and the conditions that influenced them. She discusses how they were influenced by religion and laws and how they, in turn, influenced religious tenets and laws. She often relates anecdotes of arrangements at particular periods in history based on diaries and letters written by men and women at that time.

Ms Coontz talks about the evolution of marriage to recent times, when individuals became important and, since the early 18th century, love in a marriage became a necessary ingredient. She is not judgmental, but presents the advantages and disadvantages of each model. She ends on a hopeful note that we have learned from the past and that man/woman relationships will be more satisfactory to both.

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