Marriage, a History : How Love Conquered Marriage
This is a scholarly book with pizzazz. The author reports on marriage practices and laws from ancient Babylon to the present. The text is packed with statistics and research references, and there are 98 pages of endnotes. However, Professor Coontz’s engaging and colloquial style keeps the reader turning pages. The author’s research yields the surprising insight that marriage before the 17th century was nothing like the “traditional” marriage of the 20th century. The exclusive pairing off of a heterosexual couple to be lifelong friends, lovers, and parents was something new in the history of marriage. The research also shows that at the close of the 20th century, marriage had evolved in such a way that it ceased to be society’s principal means of organizing sexual behavior, child rearing, social life, and care of family members. Historians of the 21st century will record how well we managed this revolution. A book to read and keep.