Reordering marriage and society in Reformation Germany


Reordering marriage and society in Reformation Germany

Joel F. Harrington

Cambridge University Press, 1995

  • : hardback

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Includes bibliographical references (p. 284-303) and index



This book examines the impact of the Protestant Reformation on both the ideal and practice of marriage in sixteenth-century Germany. Combining extensive archival work with a broad synthesis of scholarly research in legal, theological, and social history, it provides the most comprehensive evaluation to date of the Reformation's impact on marriage. The author compares Protestant reforming goals and achievements to those of contemporary Catholics. All sixteenth-century campaigns to restore 'traditional family values', he argues, must be viewed in the context of more gradual social transformations in private morality, public authority, and familial relations. The apparent innovations of the reformers - including the abolition of clerical celibacy and introduction of divorce - fade in comparison to their much greater adherence to the theological, legal and social traditions shared with their Catholic ancestors and contemporaries.


  • Part I. The Nature and Origins of Sixteenth-Century Marriage Reform: 1. Marriage reform and reformers
  • 2. Marriage and the Church: the ideological reformation
  • 3. Marriage and the state: the bureaucratic reformation
  • Part II. The Social Impact of Sixteenth-Century Marriage Reform: 4. In loco parentis: public approval of private consent
  • 5. 'Against the marriage devil': sexual discipline and marital stability
  • 6. Conclusions.

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