A History of Marriage paints an often surprising picture of this most public, yet most intimate, institution - a complex tradition that includes arranged marriages, dowries, same-sex marriages, self-marriages and child brides. The wedding ceremony, too, has worn many faces: 'spousals', common before the mid-twelfth century in western Europe, required no priest, but only the privately proclaimed consent of the couple; the iconic white wedding dress did not emerge until the late eighteenth century and not until Queen Victoria wore a lavish white gown in 1840 did it become truly fashionable. But how did a royal or aristocratic marriage differ to a poorer person's? How strong are the similarities between the way in which married people lived together in the past and today? What did getting married mean to ordinary people a hundred, or five hundred, years ago? How long did an average marriage last and what were a couple's alternatives to staying together? This fascinating book sheds light on a fundamental human institution and the forces that continue to shape it. Marriage - in all its loving and unloving, extravagant and modest forms - comes alive here through Elizabeth Abbott's research, enthusiasm and curiosity.