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Married Life in the Middle Ages, 900-1300

Elisabeth van Houts

Publication Date - June 2022

ISBN: 9780192856371

312 pages
9.2 x 6.1 inches

In Stock


Married Life in the Middle Ages, 900-1300 contains an analysis of the experience of married life by men and women in Christian medieval Europe, c. 900-1300. The study focusses on the social and emotional life of the married couple rather than on the institutional history of marriage, breaking it into three parts: Getting Married - the process of getting married and wedding celebrations; Married Life - the married life of lay couples and clergy, their sexuality, and any remarriage; and Alternative Living - which explores concubinage and polygyny, as well as the single life in contrast to monogamous sexual unions.

In this volume, van Houts deals with four central themes. First, the tension between patriarchal family strategies and the individual family member's freedom of choice to marry and, if so, to what partner; second, the role played by the married priesthood in their quest to have individual agency and self-determination accepted in their own lives in the face of the growing imposition of clerical celibacy; third, the role played by women in helping society accept some degree of gender equality and self-determination to marry and in shaping the norms for married life incorporating these principles; fourth, the role played by emotion in the establishment of marriage and in married life at a time when sexual and spiritual love feature prominently in medieval literature.


  • The first major analysis of the experience of married life by men and women in Christian medieval Europe between 900 and 1300
  • Observes the lived experience of the married couple as it emerges from chronicles and medieval fiction
  • Argues that the woman's role in the debate on the formation of marriage was more significant than previously thought
  • Addresses debates surrounding not only marriage, but also concubinage, polygyny, and the single life

About the Author(s)

Elisabeth van Houts, Honorary Professor in European Medieval History, University of Cambridge

Elisabeth van Houts is Honorary Professor in European Medieval History at the University of Cambridge. Born in the Netherlands, she received her doctorate from the University of Groningen in 1982. Since 1984, she has lived and worked in Cambridge where she teaches medieval history, and has been a Fellow of Emmanuel College since 1997. The University of Cambridge awarded her a DLitt (a higher doctorate) in 2001 and the title of Honorary Professor in European Medieval History in 2011. Van Houts has published widely on Anglo-Norman history, the history of women and gender, and medieval historiography and memory.


"Married Life in the Middle Ages shows itself as a book capable of carrying out two missions: that of giving a new general vision of medieval marriage and providing numerous ideas for specialized studies." -- Fabrizio De Falco, Storicamente

Table of Contents

    Part I: Getting Married
    1. Making of Marriage
    2. Wedding Celebrations
    Part II: Married Life
    3. Sexuality and Love
    4. Authority and Collaboration
    5. End of Marriage and Remarriage
    6. Clerical Marriages
    Part III: Alternative Living
    7. Living with One or More Partners
    8. Single Life

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