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A History of Marriage

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3.62  ·  Rating details ·  177 Ratings  ·  30 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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
...more
Tiffany
Sep 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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…
Deodand
Oct 13, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, asia, usa, conan
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?
Sara
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
the past was horrible, the end.
Steve Watson
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting overview of how marriage has and hasn't changed over the centuries in North America and before that, in Europe. Moves toward some pretty incisive review and commentary regarding contemporary debates and discussions of marriage.

A number of random things that interested me:
-Rings have been warn on the fourth finger of the left hand since the 16th century or earlier because that was where "a vein connected to the heart, just as the couple was sexually and emotionally united." (55
...more
Ingeborg
Now that I have read this one, I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage seems waaay better then when I read it this summer. It is all a matter of expectations. Or lowering them, as you go along ... If I compared the two - I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage would definitely get 2 stars, but now it's too late.

The problem of Elizabeth Abbott's book is a complete lack of focus, the fact that the intended audience is not clear (who are the meant readers of this book?), or the overall purpose
...more
Jenny GB
I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.

Abbott writes engagingly about both the history of marriage (primarily in North America specifically America and Canada) and the current status of marriage in recent decades. I would have liked to see a more global perspective, but I understand her hesitation about expanding her scope due to what that would do to the size of the book and her lack of personal immersion in those cultures she would be discussing. Her subject material
...more
amanda
like man, idk, this is the kind of problem i have with a lot of pop history. it reads well in parts. it drags in parts. but it’s the authorial voice intruding all of the time in such a chatty way that i really can’t stand. sometimes it works, if you’re a mary roach or a melissa mohr, but mostly you’re a todd mcleish or a robert sullivan, or in this case, an elizabeth abbott.

it was obviously well-researched so the parts where she chose just not to put a footnote or a cite stuck out especially an
...more
Lindsay Elliott
A History of Marriage is a very interesting and educational book. The perspectives of each time period and how they reflected on society is extremely well presented throughout the numerous chapters. I enjoyed the progression of the book as it started with a very early history of marriage and gradually worked up to the modern age and how marriage is viewed and handled now, as well as how it touched on the future of marriage and where it might be headed. Marriage has become an extremely curious th ...more
Softness
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jacqueline
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the first half (a European and N American history) much more than the second (an analysis of modern marriage, gay marriage, step families, divorce, etc.). Appreciated her taking a good amount of space to discuss slave marriages and the effect of residential schooling on Aboriginal marriages and family ties.
Rich Mccue
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kaija
Feb 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Emma
Jan 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jill
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting view about how marriage has evolved over the centuries. Some of our ideas and definitions of relationships and marriage are not founded on accurate perceptions and assumptions of how marriage has functioned in the past.
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.
Ioana Fotache
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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)
Deirdre Kelly
Feb 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and thoughtful history by Toronto scholar Elizabeth Abbott.
Lisa
Oct 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mass of information, covering cultures and ages!
Shannon Coates
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Surprising
Eye-opening
Compelling
Ada
Jun 16, 2011 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.
AJ
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lisa Beth
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Covered different cultures and views of marriage. Great read
Lucy
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fascinating; could cure anyone of romanticizing the "family values" of the past.
Deb
Nov 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Marc
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Avril
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sexuality
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.
Mags
Well written and enjoyable to read!
Seán Ó Séaghdha
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
An interesting book, but a bit unfocussed.
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