This international conference seeks to advance a more nuanced understanding of marriage in early modern Europe (1200-1700) by examining how marriage was understood and practiced in the various geographical, political, religious, and cultural areas of Europe. This will include discussions of marriage rituals, customs, social expectations, not to mention diverse marriage practices, such as polygamy and concubinage, or clandestine, mystical, and same-sex marriages.
Over the last fifty years in the United States and in Canada, as well as in many Western countries, there has been extensive and at times heated discussion about what constitutes, or should constitute, marriage. Such discussions have been prompted by proposals for, and ensuing debates over the official recognition of common law marriages, polygamy, same-sex marriage, as well as for such marriage-related issues as the legalization of divorce or the possibility of single individuals or same-sex couples to adopt children. In all these cases, supporters of the status quo inevitably launch a fervent appeal for the defence and preservation of "traditional marriage" and refer back to biblical authority or to the authority of Western Tradition and Natural Law in order to argue that marriage and marriage practices should conform to, and remain very much the same as how we have them today. By providing a scholarly and historically well grounded analysis of European marriage practices (both formal and informal) during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, this international and interdisciplinary conference will allow for a fuller and more nuanced understanding of how marriage was understood and practiced by early modern European society (1200-1700).