Volume 3 Issue 1 2014

Volume 3 Issue 1The History of Family, Marriage and Divorce in Eastern Europe

Gabriella Erdélyi and Sándor Horváth Special Editors of the Thematic Issue

Contents

Articles

András Péter Szabó     

Betrothal and Wedding, Church Wedding and Nuptials: Reflections on the System of Marriages in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Hungary

Abstract

Abstract

The aim of the present study is to sketch briefly the relationship between the ecclesiastical and secular elements of the marriage customs in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Kingdom of Hungary and Principality of Transylvania with the help of the sixteenth-century nuptial invitations preserved in the town archives of Beszterce (German: Bistritz; today Bistriţa, Romania), the specialist literature and ethnographic analogies. The common Hungarian and Latin designation for the betrothal and the church marriage (kézfogás/desponsatio) indicates that the two concepts had not separated completely. The terminological uncertainty can be explained by the slow implementation of canonical requirements: in practice the betrothal, adopted in the twelfth century, originating in Roman law, only gradually earned its place. The Reformation gave further impetus to doctrines proclaiming the binding force of betrothal, perhaps also connected with this is the fact that a binding form of betrothal also existed alongside that corresponding to today’s version for a very long time in both Transylvania and Hungary. Betrothal accompanied by church ceremony in this case was followed as a second phase by a purely secular wedding feast. Only after the wedding subsequently became permanently embedded in the wedding feast did the church ceremony become the central element in the series of events.
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György Kövér    

“A Satisfactory Combination in Every Respect…” The Spouse Selection Dilemmas of a Young Man of the Christian Middle Class at the Turn of the Century

Abstract

Abstract

This case study looks at how a late nineteenth-century diarist from Hungary approached the problem of finding a wife. His system was to make lists of the ladies he met in various social circles, and appraise their potential benefits and drawbacks. In later life, he also left memoirs of his youth, although these make few references to the dilemmas he faced in choosing a wife. The literature on spouse selection focuses on the relative weights of socio-economic motives and “emotional-affective” conditions in courtship. How much did parents and relatives have a say in the choice, and how much did the decision rest on the young people’s individual will, or feelings of love? How much were the norms and the actual relationships differentiated by social class and gender? What was the balance between interests and emotions in the final outcome? Alajos Paikert (1866–1948), taken as a representative of the non-gentry middle class, did attempt to meet family expectations, but did not leave the choice to his parents. He wanted to find his future partner himself. The diary is a document of internal struggle, but is less concerned with feelings than with desires, possibilities and calculations. By bringing in other sources, however, the historian can try to work out what lay behind the words.
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Mikołaj Szołtysek,  Siegfried Gruber

Living Arrangements of the Elderly in Two Eastern European Joint-Family Societies: Poland–Lithuania around 1800 and Albania in 1918

Abstract

Abstract

This paper re-addresses the nature of joint-family systems in historic Eastern Europe. It identifies two “hotspot” areas of family complexity and uses census microdata to shed light on attributes of household organization and living arrangements of the elderly in a comparative perspective. A detailed examination of various demographic components of the joint-family systems under discussion reveals important inter-societal differences and suggests that “de-essentialization” of the notion of the “joint-family system” might be necessary when discussing the geography of family patterns in this part of the continent.
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Levente Pakot    

Family Composition, Birth Order and Timing of First Marriages in Rural Transylvania. A Case Study of Szentegyházasfalu (Vlăhiţa) and Kápolnásfalu (Căpâlniţa), 1838–1940

Abstract

Abstract

In this article I explore the roles of family composition in the timing of first marriages in two mountain villages in the eastern part of Transylvania (in present-day Romania) between 1838 and 1940. Using micro-level data based on family reconstitutions, I found evidence suggesting the dominant role of family composition in the decision to marry in the case of both males and females. Although strong age norms existed with regards to marriage in the settlements in question, the results of multivariate analysis show that ordinal position of birth, number of siblings, parental presence, and the historical period during which a marriage was concluded, all played decisive roles in determining the age at the time of marriage of males and females. The effect of ordinal position of birth differed by gender: first-born males tended to marry at an older age than their brothers, as opposed to first-born females, who normally married at a younger age than their younger sisters. The death of one or both parents was an inducement among males and females to marry. This response to a family crisis reflects the acceleration of the inheritance process and an effort to maintain the viability of a rural household.
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Stanislav Holubec    

Between Scarcity and Modernity: Working Class Families in Prague in the Interwar Period

Abstract

Abstract

This study investigates the life experiences of working class families in Prague in the interwar period with particular emphasis on processes of family formation and sustainment. With regards to the notion of “family formation,” I examined in particular the search for partners, patterns of cohabitation, and sociological aspects of partner’s choice. I analyzed the life course of workers´ families with a focus on child births, questions pertaining to health, and divorces and other non-traditional forms of family. Working class families are interpreted as having undergone and reacted to different aspects of modern social change. These include demographic transition (declining infant mortality, declining fertility), the adoption of modern values (individualization, rise of divorce rates, secularization, female emancipation, multiple identities), the effects of World War I (material scarcity, high mortality), local circumstances (housing shortages), and persistent traditional patterns and values in the mentality among the working class (gender inequality and family hierarchies).
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Mónika Mátay    

The Adventures of Dispute: a Marriage Crisis

Abstract

Abstract

Various developments in the study of history over the past few decades have borrowed theoretical assumptions and methodological innovations from cultural anthropology. Similarly, some of the leading scholars in the field of legal history have done the same.
In this article I investigate the avenues of dispute within a Calvinist burgher family from Debrecen, the biggest Hungarian city at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I try to reconstruct the individual strategies they adopted in order to achieve their goals and the means and tactics they used against each other in business, defamation conflicts or a divorce case. I approach the legal construction as a creative moment, a formative period in which the combination of central legislation and local statutes offered a space for individual strategies and legal maneuvering. In the analysis, I scrutinize both the disputing habits and the internal motivations of a quarreling couple, the Ladányis, to take their private matters and conflicts to the court, as well as the mutual influences of social actors and increasingly modern social institutions, more precisely, the city court and the legal profession.
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Sándor Nagy    

One Empire, Two States, Many Laws. Matrimonial Law and Divorce in the Austro–Hungarian Monarchy

Abstract

Abstract

Following the Compromise of 1867 between the Habsburg House and the parties pressing for Hungarian independence, the territory of Austria and the territory of Hungary constituted separate jurisdictions, thus it is not surprising that matrimonial law developed differently in the newly sovereign Kingdom of Hungary. In Austria the 1811 civil code specifically circumscribed the right of Catholics, who constituted the overwhelming majority of the population and were only able to “separate from bed and board,” and non-Catholics to dissolve the bonds of marriage. In contrast, in Hungary as of the middle of the nineteenth century Catholics were also able to dissolve the bonds of marriage. In this article I examine the evolution of matrimonial law as well as the influence of the economic and social transformations of the nineteenth century on divorce rates and the spread of divorce. The introduction of the matrimonial law of 1895 and the easing of divorce proceedings in 1907 were direct causes of the steep rise in the already higher rates of divorce in Hungary around the turn of the century. While the higher divorce rates in the larger cities were influenced by industrialization and urbanization, in rural areas, where the rise in divorce rates was not negligible, other factors must be sought. After the adoption of the Hungarian matrimonial law, the number of divorces among Catholics grew and the number of divorce proceedings initiated by members of the lower classes, in particular peasants and agricultural workers, also rose. In general, the data indicate cultural divergences in the practice of divorce and reveal the significance of the differences between the lifestyle customs and legal traditions of different denominations on the one hand and on the other the importance of efforts on the part of the state to reconcile these differences and foster social integration.
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Book Reviews

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Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.
By Timothy Snyder. Reviewed by László Borhi

Régi könyvek, új csillagok [Old Books, New Stars].
By Gábor Farkas. Reviewed by Benedek Láng

Köleséri Sámuel tudományos levelezése 1709–1732 [The Scientific Correspondence of Sámuel Köleséri].
By Zsigmond Jakó. Edited by Zsuzsa Font. Reviewed by Mihály Balázs  

Unfinished Utopia. Nowa Huta, Stalinism, and Polish Society, 1949–56.
By Katherine Lebow. Reviewed by Róbert Balogh

Hungary and Romania Beyond National Narratives: Comparisons and Entanglements.
Edited by Anders E.B. Blomqvist, Constantin Iordachi, and Balázs Trencsényi. Reviewed by R. Chris Davis


Notes on Contributors

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