- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; Revised ed. edition (March 8, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674008758
- ISBN-13: 978-0674008755
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #488,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation Revised ed. Edition
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In showing how marriage has always been regulated and shaped by the state, Nancy Cott not only recasts our understanding of this most intimate of relationships but enables us to think in new ways about concepts of privacy, public power, and, ultimately, liberty itself in American history. (Eric Foner, author of The Story of American Freedom)
With Public Vows, Nancy Cott provides the most powerful and thorough account of the evolution of marriage as a legal and social practice in this country, and as a consistent focus of public regulation and political concern. This engaging and lucid book should be on the required reading list of every serious observer of American politics as well as students of social history, marriage, and the family. Cott offers a lens onto racial, religious, and ethnic conflicts, along with a compelling argument that the public uses of marriage can include preservation of a sacred space for private meanings. (Martha Minow, Harvard Law School)
Public Vows is an extraordinary accomplishment. Nancy Cott definitively establishes the public character of the 'private' institution of marriage in American history. More, she reveals how the American image of monogamy has been infused into laws, social issues and political debates in ways and to an extent one never would have imagined. The book is insightful, imaginatively and thoroughly researched, and convincing. Reading it compelled me to expand and improve my understandings of the institution of marriage. (Neil J. Smelser, Director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences)
Public Vows is a tour de force, a wide-ranging history of marriage from the era of the American Revolution to the era of President Clinton's impeachment and the 'Defense of Marriage Act.' Thanks to this book, people who are unmarried, married or divorced, gays and lesbians, political activists and scholars, all will better understand the weight of history in shaping marriage American style. (Linda K. Kerber, author of No Constitutional Right to be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship)
A gracefully written, deeply researched, and wide-ranging survey of the roles marriage has played in American public discourse, a survey that challenges how political history has been written and that will become the essential starting point for anyone interested in the history of marriage in the United States. (Hendrik Hartog, author of Man and Wife in America: A History)
One of our most notable American historians offers in lively readable prose the story of marriage laws in the U.S. from earliest times to the present. Have the rules governing marriage changed in our own times? Good question: read on! (Carolyn G. Heilbrun, author of Writing a Woman's Life)
In this exhaustively researched study...[Cott] posits a monolithic Christian monogamous marriage, formed by the mutual consent of a man and a woman, as American colonists' model. This model, she argues, was congruent with the political ideal of representative government: the Constitution's 'more perfect union' was likened to the domestic ideal of marital union. Entry to marriage, Cott observes, has been regulated by the states, which have also used their power to limit this civil right. (Publishers Weekly 2000-11-13)
In this fascinating study, Cott examines the evolution and impact of marriage law on the American social structure...Presented in a clear, chronological fashion, this work provides a wealth of thought-provoking information. Highly recommended. (Rose Cichy Library Journal 2001-01-01)
Christian monogamy and property rights have been crucial to state and federal policies on marriage ever since the American republic was born, and how Americans have felt about marriage has affected much larger developments than the joining of one man and one woman in matrimony...[According to Public Vows,] marriage is now much less a matter of public policy--an institution--than one of private accommodation--a contract. Cott's cool, intelligent overview is sometimes demanding but always absorbing. (Ray Olson Booklist 2001-01-01)
As a historian, Nancy Cott is not obligated to look into the future. But her incisive illumination and readable analysis of the weight of history will help both scholars and activists who wish to understand and help shape the future of marriage and family life. (E. Kay Trimberger Women's Review of Books)
About the Author
Nancy F. Cott is Professor of History at Harvard University.
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My only quibble is this: she flies through the sexual revolution and the past five decades at breakneck speed while only touching on incredibly important recent developments. She recognizes seismic shifts but does not examine them as closely as she does the formative years of the nation. I would have enjoyed reading a lengthier examination of the past half-century.