Parents, if still alive, expected to have a say or even a leading part in arranging a marriage.They could react angrily if they were not consulted.In the 19th century Britain women were expected to marry and have children.However, there was in fact a shortage of available men.This was especially true at the end of the 16th century, when a growing population and a succession of meagre harvests sharply increased the numbers of poor people needing relief.Many men and women in the middle and upper ranks of society married for the first time with the help of bequests or lifetime transfers of resources from the previous generation.Until two centuries ago, said Harvard historian Nancy Cott, "monogamous households were a tiny, tiny portion" of the world population, found in "just Western Europe and little settlements in North America." When did people start marrying?
By 1861 there were 10,380,285 women living in England and Wales but only 9,825,246 men.
In the ancient world, marriage served primarily as a means of preserving power, with kings and other members of the ruling class marrying off daughters to forge alliances, acquire land, and produce legitimate heirs.
Even in the lower classes, women had little say over whom they married.
But that basic concept has taken many forms across different cultures and eras.
"Whenever people talk about traditional marriage or traditional families, historians throw up their hands," said Steven Mintz, a history professor at Columbia University. '" The ancient Hebrews, for instance, engaged in polygamy — according to the Bible, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines — and men have taken multiple wives in cultures throughout the world, including China, Africa, and among American Mormons in the 19th century.