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For more than 2,500 years, the Western tradition has embraced monogamous marriage as an essential institution for the flourishing of men and women, parents and children, society and the state. At the same time, polygamy has been considered a serious crime that harms wives and children, correlates with sundry other crimes and abuses, and threatens good citizenship and political stability. The West has thus long punished all manner of plural marriages and denounced the polygamous teachings of selected Jews, Muslims, Anabaptists, Mormons, and others. John Witte, Jr. carefully documents the Western case for monogamy over polygamy from antiquity until today. He analyzes the historical claims that polygamy is biblical, natural, and useful alongside modern claims that anti-polygamy laws violate personal and religious freedom. While giving the arguments pro and con a full hearing, Witte concludes that the Western historical case against polygamy remains compelling and urges Western nations to hold the line on monogamy.Read more
- The first comprehensive history of attitudes toward polygamy in the West, from biblical times until today
- Includes detailed case studies of polygamist prosecutions in early modern Europe and nineteenth-century America
- Provides valuable tools for the study of polygamy including definitions of plural marital unions and a detailed background on Biblical, Talmudic, Greek and Roman law
Reviews & endorsements
'By providing such an outstanding survey of the historical arguments against polygamy, Witte makes a convincing argument that at present, the focus on harms and rights in contemporary legal and constitutional discourse (not religious beliefs or practices) is likely to keep polygamy at bay in the United States for some time to come. This is essential reading for understanding debates about marriage, religion, and state interests.' A. G. Roeber, Journal of Church and State
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- Date Published: May 2015
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107499171
- length: 550 pages
- dimensions: 226 x 152 x 30 mm
- weight: 0.73kg
- contains: 23 b/w illus.
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. From polygamy to monogamy in ancient Judaism
2. Monogamy versus polygamy in the early church
3. Polygamy in the laws of state and church in the first millennium
4. The medieval case for monogamy over polygamy
5. Polygamous experiments in early Protestantism
6. The Calvinist case against polygamy and its civil law impact
7. The English case against polygamy: theology, politics, and the early modern common law
8. The early modern liberal case for polygamy
9. The Enlightenment liberal case against polygamy
10. The American case against polygamy.
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