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A History of Marriage

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  108 ratings  ·  21 reviews
What does the "tradition of marriage" really look like? In A History of Marriage, Elizabeth Abbott paints an often surprising picture of this most public, yet most intimate, institution. Ritual of romance, or social obligation? Eternal bliss, or cult of domesticity? Abbott reveals a complex tradition that includes same-sex unions, arranged marriages, dowries, self-marriage ...more
ebook, 909 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Seven Stories Press (first published December 29th 2009)
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This was a fascinating and very thought provoking book. The title does not reveal the wide range of subjects that are tackled: the history of marriage traditions (where that white dress came from!), the struggle of women for their rights (in the past, once married a woman was no longer a legal entity and became the possession of her husband... makes you realize that marriage was never very romantic at all until recently), history of spousal abuse, contraception, attitudes towards sex, divorce, g ...more
Emma Sea
Here's my problem with this book: not enough references.

When Abbot tells me that in the 19th century anal sex was "common" between married het couples (p. 161) I want a reference. Please.

While there are references in the book, and a large bibliography, these are somewhat lacking in the first half, on the historical evolution of marriage. I just don't know how much of this book I can trust.

It's very comprehensive and wide-ranging, but the writing isn't that enjoyable. I wouldn't suggest reading
Ahmad Saidullah
Elizabeth Abbott, a writer of intelligence and grace who wears her learning lightly, has penned a masterpiece that deserves a pride of place on any bookshelf. Her History of Marriage is a wide-ranging account of how the social intersects with many forms of the personal. The book is full of insight, openness and style. An outstanding work that deserves as many readers as can be found. If only all scholars were as deep, unblinkered and wrote half as well…
Sara Elise
the past was horrible, the end.
The first half was focused on the history of marriage and was interesting. The second half devolved into a list of issues with current marriage and read like a textbook two stars for the first half.
Ioana Zorbescu
Really well-written and informative. I liked how it was professionally written without delving deeply into gobbledegook, and how objective most information was presented (though the author's personal thoughts were appreciated)
Rich Mccue
A good overview of how western culture has arrived at it's current conception of marriage. The transformation that marriage has undergone over the centuries is fascinating. It was interesting to see the reaction of my children when I told them that marrying for love is a fairly recent innovation. I recommend this book.
I enjoyed this book. Following the history of humans through their relationships and marriage dynamics was quite an eye opener. It was also a little depressing to see the same mistakes repeated over and over with each new century. This book covered more issues than just marriage. It dealt with racial issues, gender issues, children's rights, human rights, divorce, family living arrangements, family issues during war time, treatment of immigrants, and many other topics. It covered European histor ...more
It's a good book if you're looking for a one that contains a lot of information on marriage it's very good.
It's very much a textbook that would be used in University.

I did find that most of the time it seemed to have a very negative views on the lives of females. Mind you, maybe hat's due to the fact they really had a horrible time overall, but maybe it's biased.
There are some interesting tidbits in here, but no new information to me. I felt that the prose read as statement after statement - almost as if Abbott could footnote each sentence of the book. There should be more citations in the text to support her arguments. Perhaps this was done to keep the book more approachable to a pleasure-reading audience?
The historical information found in this book was very well presented but Part 2 dealt primarily with present issues facing marriage and it was much less interesting. If you are looking for a book on history; only read Part 1. If you are interested in the state of marriage today; this book is probably an excellent choice.
Teena in Toronto
This is a big book (460 pages) about everything you ever wanted to know about marriage!

It was really interesting to learn about marriages before the 20th century. I would have been a lousy wife back then! I can see why some women were happy to be spinsters ... that would have been me.
It had some interesting moments, and it had some dull and pedantic moments, I found the writing a bit pedantic and dull, and too much time spent in the early chapters on just a few specific cases.
Apr 29, 2012 Ada marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
so far so good. on my to-read list for a while now. knowing it is a relationship trilogy and the last of the set, but decided to read first before history of mistresses and celibacy.
Not bad. Preferred the first half, on history, to the second, on contemporary issues, which was very heavily focused on the USA and Canada. But a good summary.
2.5 stars.

This book really dragged at times, and I can't say it taught me anything really earth shattering or new. That said, it was interesting at times.
Absolutely fascinating; could cure anyone of romanticizing the "family values" of the past.
Deirdre Kelly
A fascinating and thoughtful history by Toronto scholar Elizabeth Abbott.
Lisa Beth
Covered different cultures and views of marriage. Great read
Shannon Coates
A mass of information, covering cultures and ages!
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