"Engel examines how Russians of various classes and estates understood marital obligations and the behavior and conditions that were egregious enough to justify loosening the ties. In the process, she examines perceptions of gender roles, how these varied by estate and class, and how attitudes shifted at the end of the nineteenth century. . . . The cases are fascinating and provide rare insights into Russian domestic life. . . . Highly recommended."―Choice (November 2011)
"Barbara Alpern Engel provides a captivating and well-researched book in this newest addition to her already impressive bibliography. She uses her remarkable knowledge to analyze an archival source specific to the turn of the nineteenth century. In doing so, she details rich, new glimpses into the lives of both women and men, of all social estates, specifically their perceptions of gender roles within one of the most sacred of Russian institutions―marriage. . . . This should be a staple for all students and scholars of Russian social and legal history."―Katie Lynn, Slavic and East European Journal (Spring 2013)
"Breaking the Ties That Bound is a tour de force on the history of gender, marriage, and family in the context of the changing intellectual and cultural currents of nineteenth-century Russia. With her enormous expertise in social and cultural history, Barbara Alpern Engel provides compassionate and richly colorful stories of women's and men's lives and their use of law courts, enabling readers to understand individuals' loves and quarrels as women struggled within the confines of their society. Engel compellingly discusses dowries, romantic love, involuntary marriage, sexuality, adultery, domestic violence, work, marital subservience, separation, and women's self-assertion and power within the patriarchal demands of their fathers and husbands. Engel's writing is elegant and clear, making this fascinating book accessible to a broad general audience of scholars and students interested in families, the law, the emotions, women's history, and women's assertions of selfhood within a patriarchal society anywhere in the world."―Rachel G. Fuchs, Distinguished Foundation Professor of History, Arizona State University, and author of Contested Paternity: Constructing Families in Modern France
"Barbara Alpern Engel uses petitions for divorce in late imperial Russia to illuminate the intimate world of private emotion, as well as changing attitudes toward women and domestic life. A tour de force of creative research and historical interpretation, Breaking the Ties That Bound is sure to be a classic in the field."―Laura Engelstein, Henry S. McNeil Professor of Russian History, Yale University, and author of Slavophile Empire: Imperial Russia's Illiberal Path
"Breaking the Ties That Bound is a marvelous book. Using a remarkable set of sources that record the voices of men and women who want to dissolve their marriages, Engel enters the most intimate dimensions of human relationships. We learn that, as in the United States, married women could not dispose of their own persons. But they could and did own and control property. And that made all the difference when it came to questions of male honor, of child custody, of domestic violence, and of romantic love. This book illuminates the social history of family everywhere."―Alice Kessler-Harris, author of Gendering Labor History
"Mining the rich archive of the Imperial Chancellery for the Receipt of Petitions, Barbara Alpern Engel offers a vibrant account of the intersection of law and marital life in late Imperial Russia. In a context of rigid laws and changing attitudes toward marital, family, and personal life, conservative state officials felt compelled to respond to petitions from distressed wives by providing them with a means of escaping broken marriages and living independently. The personal stories of marital strife recounted by Engel also open a unique and valuable window onto family life in Russia during a period of wrenching change."―William G. Wagner, Dean of the Faculty and Brown Professor of History, Williams College, author of Marriage, Property, and Law in Late Imperial Russia
About the Author
Barbara Alpern Engel is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is the author of Women in Russia: 1700–2000, Between the Fields and the City: Women, Work, and Family in Russia, 1861–1914, and Mothers and Daughters: Women of the Intelligentsia in Nineteenth-Century Russia and coeditor of A Revolution of Their Own: Russian Women Remember Their Lives in the Twentieth Century, Russia's Women: Accommodation, Resistance, Transformation, and Five Sisters: Women Against the Tsar.