While in some ways the institution of marriage became threatened, in others it became more anchored than ever before. In Western Europe, marriage was increasingly regarded as the only way to reach happiness and self-fulfillment, and romantic partner choice became a new ideal.
In the United States, former slaves obtained the right to marry and to formalize existing bonds after the Civil War, leading to a convergence in marriage patterns between the black and white population. In Latin America, marriage was and remained less common than in other world regions - due to the prevalence of consensual unions - but marriage rates were nevertheless on the rise. A similar trend was observed in Australia and New Zealand.
In African and Asian societies, European colonial powers tried to change the marriage customs of indigenous populations-for instance regarding polygamy and arranged marriages-but sooner or later they had to adapt themselves and their colonial administrations in order to avoid major resistance.
In a world of turbulent political and economic change, marriage and the family remained safe havens, the linchpins of society that they had been for centuries.
A Cultural History of Marriage in the Age of Empires presents an overview of the period with essays on Courtship and Ritual; Religion, State and Law; Kinship and Social Networks; the Family Economy; Love and Sex; the Breaking of Vows; and Representations of Marriage.