MARRIAGE, A HISTORY: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage

Stephanie Coontz, Author
Stephanie Coontz, Author . Viking $25.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-670-03407-9
Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 06/01/2005
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 448 pages - 978-1-101-11312-7
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-101-11141-3
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-101-11825-2
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-14-303667-8
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When considered in the light of history, "traditional marriage"—the purportedly time-honored institution some argue is in crisis thanks to rising rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births, not to mention gay marriage—is not so traditional at all. Indeed, Coontz (The Way We Never Were ) argues, marriage has always been in flux, and "almost every marital and sexual arrangement we have seen in recent years, however startling it may appear, has been tried somewhere before." Based on extensive research (hers and others'), Coontz's fascinating study places current concepts of marriage in broad historical context, revealing that there is much more to "I do" than meets the eye. In ancient Rome, no distinction was made between cohabitation and marriage; during the Middle Ages, marriage was regarded less as a bond of love than as a " 'career' decision"; in the Victorian era, the increasingly important idea of true love "undermined the gender hierarchy of the home" (in the past, men—rulers of the household—were encouraged to punish insufficiently obedient wives). Coontz explains marriage as a way of ensuring a domestic labor force, as a political tool and as a flexible reflection of changing social standards and desires. She presents her arguments clearly, offering an excellent balance between the scholarly and the readable in this timely, important book. Agent, Susan Rabiner. (May)

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