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Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  1,991 Ratings  ·  274 Reviews
Marriage has never been more fragile. But the same things that have made it so have also made a good marriage more fulfilling than ever before. In this enlightening and hugely entertaining book, historian and marriage expert Stephanie Coontz takes readers from the marital intrigues of ancient Babylon to the sexual torments of Victorian couples to demonstrate how recent the ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published May 19th 2005 by Viking Adult
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Maede
چقدر خوشحالم که اتفاقی با این کتاب آشنا شدم و تصمیم گرفتم بخونمش
موضوعاتی وجود دارند که شاید انقدر در روزمره مخفی شدند که واقعا به نظر نمیاد در موردشون اونقدر که باید نمی دونیم
اصولا فکر می کنیم همیشه همینطور بوده یا حداکثر چیزهایی که از بزرگ ترها شنیدیم رو به عنوان گذشته در نظر می گیریم
ازدواج یکی از اون هاست

چقدر سوالات زیادی داشتم که جواب داده شد و از اون بهتر سوال هایی بودند که حتی نمی دونستم دارم ولی وجود داشتند
این کتاب کامل تاریخ ازدواج رو از چند صد سال قبل شروع می کنه و تحولاتش رو شرح میده و
...more
Jessica
Jul 14, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And to think I could have taken a course with Stephanie Coontz back in the day when I was a student at The Evergreen State College... Alas, I was not interested in the history of the family then.

Now as a Lit prof., how I wish I had. Teaching works like 'Trifles,' 'A Doll House,' 'The Yellow Wallpaper,' stories by Kate Chopin and others which center on marriage, I find myself constantly trying to correct students' notions of marriage in history. Many of them really do believe that marriage as we
...more
ian
Aug 12, 2007 ian rated it it was ok
Reminds me of just how culturally marginal intellectuals are in general--not just queer ones. The traits that probably make this book accessible and engaging for a mass audience drive me wild on a scholarly level. I want citations!! And really, I'm not solicited by the cuteness of chapter titles like "Soap Operas of the Ancient World."

I suppose the first two sections, which offer a sort of cross-cultural & historical context for white bourgeois Western marriage norms, are well-intentioned.
...more
Shaun
Jun 15, 2015 Shaun rated it it was amazing
I borrowed this book from our local library. It wasn't recommended or out on display, and I honestly am not sure why I picked it up, but I'm glad I did.

Jammed packed with interesting tidbits, Coontz has put together a tremendous history of marriage, which in the process examines not only the evolution of marriage and its role in society but also the changing ideas about men and women and their relationship to each other.

She starts by talking about how people have this tendency to believe things
...more
Abbey
Jan 20, 2012 Abbey rated it it was amazing
If you don't have time to read this amazing academic history of marriage, here is the Cliffnotes version:

"traditional marriage" lol


Her treatment of Victorian-era sexuality and marriage was absolutely riveting. You can skip ahead to that part, I won't judge you.

My only complaint (and it's a small, nitpicky polypoint) is that while she presents a lot of disparate pieces of information about monogamy, multiple marriages, as well as more fluid arrangements, she neglects to weave them together to
...more
El
Feb 09, 2016 El rated it it was ok
Recommended to El by: The F-Word
Marriage is one of those things that doesn't appeal to me on a personal level. I think it's fine and dandy that people choose to get married, but in my own little world it's never really been something I consider an important task to complete. This doesn't mean I don't believe in monogamy or commitment. I've been with the same man for 11 years now, we've lived together pretty much as long, and marriage is just not a road we will be taking. We are also not having children. We may be that "small" ...more
Tanya
Jun 01, 2011 Tanya rated it really liked it
In general I have a very conservative opinion on marriage, and though this well-researched and convincingly written book enlarged my perspective, it did not change my view that "traditional" marriage is the ideal. I don't know that Coontz so much intended to dismiss that view, as to help readers realize that my traditional ideal is not "how it's always been," and certainly isn't how it always will be.

The bulk of the book traces the gradual change in marriage, from its long existence as the econo
...more
AB
Apr 16, 2010 AB marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, author-f
Not a hint or anything, dudes; just an interest.
James Steele
Oct 21, 2015 James Steele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A trip through the history of marriage, from its earliest beginnings in prehistory to the present day. What is "traditional marriage?" It takes an entire volume to do justice to the complete answer.

Marriage started as a way for families, tribes, and villages to form alliances and secure aid during hard times. Who is more likely to help you in times of need: a stranger, or family? Marriage made family out of strangers, and in the days before government, individual tribes and villages had to look
...more
Jamila
Jan 22, 2011 Jamila rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
This is one of my favorite books on the history of marriage, though it's not without its flaws. Coontz does an excellent job of taking a wide range of scholarly work and summing it up for a public audience. Through a discussion of marriage dating back to the ancient times, Coontz demonstrates that our current conception of marriage-for-love is a recent invention. Rather, marriage for the majority of history was an institution that was entered into for practical and pragmatic reasons, an institut ...more
thefourthvine
Jun 04, 2007 thefourthvine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This is a fascinating, compelling, well-written, and lucid history of marriage. It's the fun kind of history book - the kind with enough anecdotes to make the individual pages fun and enough meat to give your brain something to chew. (Eeek, that metaphor needs to be put out of its misery. I promise I won't do that again this review.)

This book is a must-read for everyone who is concerned with the current status of marriage - the divorce rate, gay marriage, traditional family values, whatever. An
...more
Mehrsa
Aug 28, 2016 Mehrsa rated it really liked it
A history of marriage and also womens rights. Great storytelling and research. It could have been so much better--there was too little analysis and too much detail and history.
Brooke
Apr 02, 2013 Brooke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013
This is probably my favorite non-fiction book that I've ever read. I want to shove this book into the hands of everyone who clutches their pearls and laments the death of the "traditional" family. The author slowly and meticulously details the history of (mostly Western) marriage.

Of note for the pearl clutchers, the marriage of the 1950s is noted to be an "unprecedented marriage system" that "was the climax of almost two hundred years of continuous tinkering with the male protector love-based m
...more
Alechia
Jan 11, 2011 Alechia rated it liked it
As a history book, this is pretty decent, although the title should really be "A History of Marriage in the Western World," since she mostly focuses on marriage in Europe and America. I read the whole book, which wasn't the easiest thing to do, since it is a history book and I was compelled to take notes on everything. Throughout the book, Coontz kept mentioning how marriage was hard in the modern world, and I kept waiting for some practical advice about this. When it finally came, I was infuria ...more
Kay
Jul 17, 2008 Kay rated it really liked it
Stephanie Coontz does an excellent job of explaining that all the stereotypes about marriage today are largely the products of long and gradual social and economic factors over time. Now, instead of arguing about marriage in a bar based on my instincts, I have Coontz's data to back me up.

Although the book is largely history, some of the most interesting stuff comes at the end, when she demonstrates with data that a lot of stereotypes about highly educated women either never get married or experi
...more
Inder
Aug 17, 2007 Inder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history, women
I was actually reading this book when my husband and I decided to run off and elope. Which is funny, because the history of marriage is something your average modern woman wants nothing to do with!

But what is so great about this book is the way that it contextualizes our current obsession with a 1950s marriage and "family values" in a much larger history. Turns out (surprise surprise) that marriage meant something very different in Medieval times, and something very different again in the 18th C
...more
K
Apr 30, 2014 K rated it it was amazing
What a stimulating and worthwhile read. It took me a while, but I'm glad I stayed with it. The writing, though dense and detailed, is accessible and engaging. And I think this is a great topic.

In this ambitious book, Stephanie Coontz takes us through the history of marriage from early days until today. In early times marriage was an entirely practical decision. It was a necessary way to organize the sharing of labor, since survival necessitated more than one person's efforts. As societies became
...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
Mar 22, 2015 Jonna Higgins-Freese rated it it was amazing
Reading Coontz's work is always a breath of fresh air. She's grounded in thorough historical and sociological research, and she scrupulously avoids any inflammatory rhetoric -- she's the antidote to moral panic around family, marriage, etc.

She points out that that, while people have always fallen in love, only recently, and in Western culture, has this been seen as necessary or even a desirable basis for a marriage (15).

Coontz demonstrates convincingly that what some on the right call "traditio
...more
Stephanie
Aug 05, 2016 Stephanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
Stephanie Coontz’s Marriage, A History: What Tradition?
http://fangswandsandfairydust.com/201...

Audiobook provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.


As someone who reads a love of romance, and a lot of romance wherein marriage is the HEA, a book on marriage presents a really tempting read. I often wonder if marriage at any time before the 20th century was about love or if the books I read, and the movies I see, are
...more
Paul
Oct 08, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it
I think this is an excellent overview of the history of marriage through the ages and across many cultures (though, probably reasonably, Coontz does devote a pretty big poprtion of the book to the evolution of the modern institution in America), and is a good amount of food for thought when thinking about how marriage is viewed today.

I think it is admirable that despite the fact that the question of what marriage is and has been in the past is currently (and, if the book is to be believed, has b
...more
Kayt
Jun 23, 2012 Kayt rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
History makes so much more sense now.

Everyone knows that you didn't marry for love in Ye Olden Days because It Was a Business Transaction and You Should be Glad with What You Got. But the idea of marriage is intrinsically wrapped around emotion today, and no matter how many times you hear that marrying for love is a recent thing, I've never seen marriage portrayed as anything but--as in, no matter what period of history you lived in, you still viewed marriage as emotional.

So now, having read thi
...more
Daniel
Jan 01, 2009 Daniel rated it liked it
Well, I learned from this book that the conception of marriage that my generation has inherited is mostly from the 1950's. (yes, to be fair I should say it's my conception of marriage, but I really don't think I'm alone in holding it.) I was quite surprised by the number of features of marriage I thought to be old-fashioned which were from a recent high-water mark of the male-breadwinner love-choice marriage. I am reading up on marriage these days to understand our cultural background for the ga ...more
SoManyBooks SoLittleTime (Aven Shore)
Stephanie Coontz makes the case that the current condition of marriage in our culture is an inevitable destination from the confluence of social forces at work since the Middle Ages (Western culture). Although sampling Eastern culture and tribes (mostly as proof of the great diversity of partnership contracts possible), it is primarily focussed on the Western marriage and transformation of the marriage contract socially and politically. The list of expectations we have of our partnerships grows, ...more
BHodges
Aug 15, 2014 BHodges rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
According to Coontz's popular survey, perhaps the most "traditional" thing about marriage is its ongoing renegotiations—its shifting iterations, its changing role in the structure of society, and the changing expectations people have when they enter into, suffer through, enjoy, or terminate a marriage relationship.

The book begins with some of the mythical, anthropological, and common-sense theories of the origins of marriage, moves into the high-stakes dramas of the ancient world of a few centur
...more
Liza
Aug 24, 2009 Liza marked it as will-i-ever-finish-these-books
Hmmmm. I just couldn't get very far in this. Firstly, the title bothers me greatly. Has love conquered marriage? I think not. Maybe some people are able to choose whom they marry, but not most. Even in the places/spaces where love has supposedly conquered marriage, I would say marriage is more about societal/familial pressures and expectations. Or the need for health care. Or the desire for that pink Kitchen Aid mixer. I find the history of marriage interesting, but I guess being of the age wher ...more
César Galicia
Sep 29, 2016 César Galicia rated it it was amazing
En estos tiempos donde existen grupos radicales intentando defender a toda costa la idea absurda de una "familia natural" y, por consiguiente, un sagrado matrimonio heterosexual, hacen falta dos antídotos: biología para comprender que la naturaleza es más compleja que lo que la religión afirma sobre ella (y que en realidad lo antinatural es hacer de la sexualidad una institución) e historia, para entender que el matrimonio ha cambiado a través de la historia, que los preceptos bajo los cuales no ...more
Holly
Apr 07, 2012 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me extraordinarily happy that I am married in the time and place that I am. Koontz does a stellar job of tracing the history of marriage from earliest recorded history to the present. I wish she had either given more time to non-Western marriages or made it plain early on that her history applies primarily to the Western world. That aside, this is a book well worth reading.
kareem
Jan 03, 2008 kareem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a good overview of the history of marriage. it reassured me that the norms and ideals we take for granted right will change, so it's ok to think different :). and policy decisions and social systems (which always lag behind the times) are still based on 1950s notions of love and marriage.

my notes from the book:
http://knotes.tumblr.com/post/31522713
Rob
Mar 15, 2012 Rob rated it really liked it
Marriage, a History was published in 2005, therefore the chapter on same sex marriage is little dated. But that's good, that's progress. I suppose this book is a must read for any old fashioned idiot who dreams of returning to 1950's America (as portrayed on television of course), perhaps one will learn that change in attitudes regarding marriage or relationships can be a good thing.
Emily
Jul 05, 2015 Emily rated it really liked it
Reread this after the landmark marriage equality ruling, just to give myself some ammo, if needed. The truth is this - and anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves - marriage has been constantly evolving since its inception. To me, the positives of these changes far outweigh the negatives.
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The F-word: February NON-FICTION selection MARRIAGE, A HISTORY 23 64 May 13, 2016 06:52PM  
  • Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation
  • A History of the Wife
  • I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage
  • The Meaning of Wife: A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-First Century
  • Here Comes the Bride: Women, Weddings, and the Marriage Mystique
  • Virgin: The Untouched History
  • Unhitched: Love, Marriage, and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China
  • Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America
  • Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex
  • Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single Women in the Twentieth Century
  • The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction
  • The Calendar
  • College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Co-eds, Then and Now
  • The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private
  • Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage
  • Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law
  • Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages
  • The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today
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Stephanie Coontz teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and is Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families, which she chaired from 2001-04. Coontz is the author of "A Strange Stirring": The Feminine Mystique and the Wives of "The Greatest Generation" (Basic Books, forthcoming 2010) and the award-winning Marri ...more
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“College graduates and women with higher earnings are now more likely to marry than women with less education and lower wages, although they generally marry at an older age. The legal profession is one big exception to this generalization. Female attorneys are less likely to ever marry, to have children, or to remarry after divorce than women in other professions. But an even higher proportion of male attorneys are childless, suggesting there might be something about this career that is unfriendly to everyone’s family life, not just women’s.” 6 likes
“Like it or not, today we are all pioneers, picking our way through uncharted and unstable territory. The old rules are no longer reliable guides to work out modern gender roles and build a secure foundation for marriage. Wherever it is that people want to end up in their family relations today, even if they are totally committed to creating a so-called traditional marrige, they have to get there by a different route from the past.” 4 likes
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