The first step to marriage: courtship

Katie Barclay

in Love, Intimacy and Power

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780719084904
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702598 | DOI:
The first step to marriage: courtship

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This chapter explores how Scottish couples selected their spouses over the period 1650 to 1850 and the implications for the distribution of power within their future relationships. Understanding the motivations for marriage and how people selected their partner can give insights into power later in their relationship. A number of factors intersected when selecting a spouse, of which it is argued the most significant in Western Europe were parental approval, economic security and the potential for love. At different times, individual factors had greater precedence than others, but choosing a partner always involved multiple considerations. Within a Scottish context, family held a significant role within courtship throughout the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, as elite marriage could not be separated from issues of lineage, land and political power. Yet, the changing economic environment of the eighteenth century, as well as cultural changes around ideas of self and individualism, shifted the focus of the purpose of marriage from bilateral kinship to the conjugal unit.

Keywords: Scottish couples; Western Europe; individualism; conjugal unit; marriage; courtship

Chapter.  14791 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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