On Marriage


I sometimes find in my research that there is a wall that prevents us seeing the whole panorama of history stretching off into the distance. One of them is that of the English family, as shown by Victoria and Dickens, which were far from typical through time. Most English people had to wait for someone to die for them to get somewhere to live so could marry, so extended families were rare. This also explains why there was a population explosion after epidemics – cleared out the housing stock.

But there is another wall here – that of the discovery of the contraceptive pill, which for the first time liberated women from the constant danger of pregnancy. We assume that a marriage involves sex. Adultery, ie the breach of the marriage contract, is based on physical intimacy with another person. But there were marriages with no children. In my research…

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