Some marriages are the end result of love-based relationships, others stem from complicated family negotiations. Some people attempt to prevent certain marriages, whereas others try to impose them with force. Some marriages are regulated by local customs, others by the Church and the State, and still others are totally secular thanks to the French Revolution. Sometimes marriage is a form of control of female sexuality and legitimate transmission of property, whereas today marriage less frequently represents a privileged mode of access to sex and inheritance. In this clear and well-researched overview, Daniela Lombardi traces the historical evolution of marriage in Western Europe from the Middle Ages to the present day. The ways in which couples take shape and break up and relationships between the sexes and the generations, expectations towards marriage, and the legal rules governing it vary over time; yet among all this change, there persists the amazing tendency of men and women to adapt their marriage and sexual behaviour to shifting historical circumstances.
Daniela Lombardi teaches Modern History at the University of Pisa.