The History of Human Marriage

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The History of Human Marriage
The History of Human Marriage (second edition).jpg
The second edition
AuthorEdvard Westermarck
Publication date
Media typePrint
Pages670 (2012 Forgotten Books edition)

The History of Human Marriage is an 1891 book by the Finnish philosopher and anthropologist Edvard Westermarck that provides an overview of marriage over time.[1]

The Finnish philosopher Jaakko Hintikka calls the work a monumental study and a classic in its field, but notes that it is now antiquated.[2]


In the book, Westermarck defined marriage as "a more or less durable connection between male and female lasting beyond the mere act of propagation till after the birth of the offspring."[3]

Westermarck argues that marriage is a social institution that rests on a biological foundation, and developed through a process in which human males came to live together with human females for sexual gratification, companionship, mutual economic aid, procreation, and the joint rearing of offspring.[4]

Besides other observations and propositions, Westermarck also proposes that people who live in close domestic proximity during the first few years of their lives become desensitized to sexual attraction, and as one explanation for the incest taboo. This hypothesis has come to be known as the Westermarck effect, named after him, or as reverse sexual imprinting.

Scholarly reception[edit]

David Blankenhorn calls the book one of the best histories of human marriage, and considers it deservedly famous. He comments, however, that it leaves out a great deal of material while "skimming too quickly over too much."[1] Blankenhorn believes, however, that scholarship subsequent to Westermarck's has tended to support his conclusions.[4]



  1. ^ a b Blankenhorn 2007. pp. 9-10.
  2. ^ Hintikka 2005. p. 303.
  3. ^ Westermarck, Edward (2003-04-01). History of Human Marriage 1922. Kessinger Publishing. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-7661-4618-1.
  4. ^ a b Blankenhorn 2007. p. 37.



External links[edit]