The History of Human Marriage  

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"The sexual struggle in the animal kingdom is not always of a violent kind. As Mr. Darwin has pointed out [in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex], males often try by peaceful emulation to charm the female. In many species of birds the male seems to endeavour to gain his bride by displaying his colours and ornaments before her, or exciting her by his love-notes, songs, and antics. But among the lower Mammals he wins her, apparently, much more through the law of battle than through the display of his charms. There can scarcely be any doubt that the same was the case with primitive men ; but we need not mount many steps of human progress to find that courtship involves something more than a mere act of strength or courage on the part of the male. It is not only in civilized countries that it often means a prolonged making of love to the woman. Mariner's words with reference to the women of Tonga hold true for a great many, not to say all, savage and barbarous races now existing. " It must not be supposed," he says, " that these women are always easily won ; the greatest attentions and most fervent solicitations are sometimes requisite, even though there be no other lover in the way. This happens sometimes from a spirit of coquetry, ..."--The History of Human Marriage (1891) by Edvard Westermarck

"Ideas of modesty, therefore, are altogether relative and conventional. Peoples who are accustomed to tattoo themselves are ashamed to appear untattooed ; peoples whose women are in the habit of covering their faces consider such a covering indispensable for every respectable woman ; peoples who for one reason or another have come to conceal the navel, the knee, the bosom, or other parts, blush to reveal what is hidden. It is not the feeling of shame that has provoked the covering, but the covering that has provoked the feeling of shame."--The History of Human Marriage (1891) by Edvard Westermarck

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The History of Human Marriage is an 1891 book about the history of human marriage by the Finnish philosopher Edvard Westermarck. The work is a classic in its field.


The History of Human Marriage is an overview of the world history of human marriage.

Westermarck argues that marriage is a social institution that rests on a biological foundation, and developed through a process in which human males came to live together with human females for sexual gratification, companionship, mutual economic aid, procreation, and the joint rearing of offspring.

Scholarly reception

David Blankenhorn calls the book one of the best histories of human marriage, and considers it deservedly famous. He comments, however, that it leaves out a great deal of material while "skimming too quickly over too much." Blankenhorn believes, however, that scholarship subsequent to Westermarck's has tended to support his conclusions.

The Finnish philosopher Jaakko Hintikka calls the work a monumental study and a classic in its field, but notes that it is now antiquated.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The History of Human Marriage" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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