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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.
- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 28, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014303667X
- ISBN-13: 978-0143036678
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
Great read, if a little ponderous.
This is a fascinating read for anyone who ever wondered what marriage and interpersonal relationships in the western world looked like 100, 200, 300 years ago. We tend to operate under the assumption that the institution has always served pretty much the same purposes it does today, but Coontz’s book shows that nothing could be further from the truth. Marriage, in fact, has served so many varied economic, cultural, political and personal purposes over the centuries that it makes one wonder why people today get so worked up over gay marriage and other changes which continue to reflect the changing mores of western culture. That said, the first half of the book is a bit of a slog; the author giving far too many examples of little known historical characters and the oddities of their marriages. It picks up in the second half (I’m just now getting into that part) where she talks about changes brought about in the early 20th century by the industrial revolution and heightened expectations on the part of women at the end of the Victorian era. This part of the book is just easier to relate to by someone born mid-century like myself.
A Very Interesting and Vitally Important Read!
I read a quote from this book that someone posted on social media in response to the normal clamor about “traditional marriage.” I was immediately in awe of this author, so much in awe in fact that I bought the book immediately and spent the next several days reading it. Coontz is an excellent writer and her research is exhaustive. This may be a non-fiction book, and I’m going to guess is used as a textbook in some courses, but it reads almost like a novel. I learned things about marriage — its roots, function and current influences on modern-day relationships that I’d never heard of in my entire undergraduate and graduate careers! This is a must read book for anyone who is ever tempted to utter the words “traditional marriage” (or for anyone who is tempted to respond to such utterances). You may not like what you read, but truth is truth…and an interesting truth (about the history of marriage) it is. Do yourself a favor and read this book!
This book is the book to read if you want to understand the history of marriage.
Wow what a great book. I usually don’t write much reviews for books or items that I buy on amazon but this book definitely warrants one. After reading this book I am absolutely blown away what I had learned and read. Stephanie Coontz has devoted her life to research of society and additionally spent over a decade researching marriage alone. I was shocked to learn that marrying for love, let alone as the primary reason, was a relatively new idea in human society. If you really want to understand what marriage was and what marriage is today then this book will give you the understanding. She clearly states that she’s not in the business to project where marriage is going in the future. Also, the author definitely is NOT giving marriage advice. She states from beginning that as a historian her goal and profession, like her fellow historians, is to see where marriage was in the earliest of times to where we are now.
Let’s Make A Deal
Speaking as a 51-year-old man who has been happily married for 28 years and raising two sons, Ms. Coontz’s trip through the evolution of marriage was very helpful, reassuring and illuminating. Almost from the onset of our marriage back in 1983, friends told us we had an “unconventional” relationship. When in reality, we were just a little ahead of the curve. Our relationship is based on trust, mutual respect and a commitment to working through the inevitable problems that will arise from living with another person. Unlike authors of countless, silly marriage advice books, Ms. Coontz is a historian who did the homework in researching the evolution of marriage. The Ozzie-and-Harriet template that many people view as how “traditional” marriages were through most of history before the radical 1960s shot everything to hell is simply pure bunk. The author is to be commended for explaining how marriage is an ever-evolving institution since its early inception and will continue to do so well after you and I are worm food. In over 30 years, I’ve read a boatload of material about different historical periods and Ms. Coontz’s assessment rings true. This well-written, entertaining work helped put this peculiar institution into proper perspective. It was very therapeutic. Whatever stage of life you are in, do yourself and favor and read Ms. Coontz’s book.
Bought because this was referenced often in my Gender and Poverty class. I love her easy writing style that doesn’t dance around with academic flourished language. Easy to follow by ‘layman’ society and an interesting time capsule to how things really were back in the day.
Much more than just about marriage
While one might expect this book to cover topics like the evolution of the concepts of love, romanticism, sexuality, and yes, the economics of marriages (and especially arranged marriages), in the end it is really a book about human culture and history. It seems no other structure has been as central to our societies’ organization, functioning and evolution as marriage and its relationship with family bonds, economic interactions, alliances and wars, and politics.
This is an informative book on the history of marriage. At last written by someone who went to the trouble to find the factual content and write about it from an inside point of view. When you find the gems of truth about marriage it all makes sense. Who on earth started that tradition? Where did it come from, and why it was implemented? Really interesting read.
Read this to be educated about people
For a while, I am married to this book. The full title is a bit misleading. It is about love but it modifies your picture of everything you know or think about people, humans, how we got here, what we are doing here and how. I am beginning work to have a history of marriage on our campus since Prof. Coontz makes it so clear that how we pair, who mates with whom and what we think should and should not happen in marriage is a totally basic, fundamental aspect of human life. Comes right after breathing and eating in importance.
TOUGH read, but worth it
This book has great information, but its is VERY dense. The font is small and even though I was extremely interested in the topic, I found myself saying, “DAMMIT!!!” when I advanced to the next chapter. This book could have been 1/4 of its size. Her examples are so long that you forget what shes referencing. I highly recommend this book, but prepare. Your edurance and eye sight will be tested.
Must-Have for American Cultural History Nerds
Borrowed this from the library but loved it so much I had to buy my own copy. Given the debate on gay marriage, I was looking to learn more about marriage in American culture and history. Found this treasure, which goes way back centuries and covers marriage traditions and attitudes from around the world. Absolutely informative and eye-opening. Highly recommended.