The Economics and Politics of Marriage

Authored by: Jutta Gisela Sperling

The Ashgate Research Companion to Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409418177
eBook ISBN: 9781315613765
Adobe ISBN: 9781317041054


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Marriage was an embattled institution in early modern Europe. Governments and the church fought over competing definitions of marital legitimacy, allowing for a legal grey zone many partners took advantage of. While the church insisted that consent alone constituted the marital sacrament, secular legal practice demanded a notarized transfer of property to seal the marriage contract. In Catholic Europe, the Council of Trent (1545–63) tried to solve the problem of elopements by mandating that wedding ceremonies be conducted in church, under the guidance of a priest, and in the presence of witnesses. Secular governments in both Catholic and Protestant regions issued their own laws, attempting to discipline reproduction according to ever tightening patriarchal principles. In Islamic countries, an efficient court system regulated all matters pertaining to marriage, divorce and the accompanying property settlements; Jewish couples got married in their respective religious communities.

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