Modern Protestant debates about spousal relations and the meaning of marriage began in a forgotten international dispute some 300 years ago. The Lutheran-Pietist ideal of marriage as friendship and mutual pursuit of holiness battled with the idea that submission defined spousal roles.
Exploiting material culture artifacts, broadsides, hymns, sermons, private correspondence, and legal cases on three continents - Europe, Asia, and North America - A. G. Roeber reconstructs the roots and the dimensions of a continued debate that still preoccupies international Protestantism and its Catholic and Orthodox critics and observers in the twenty-first century.
A. G. Roeber is professor of early modern history and religious studies and codirector of the Max Kade German-American Research Institute at Penn State University. Among his other books is Changing Churches: An Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran Theological Conversation.
American Historical Review
Roebers work is an extraordinarily expansive, erudite, and valuable book of history with a great deal to offer scholars engaged in the study of early modern reformed religions.
Journal of American History
A deeply knowledgeable and highly rewarding study that breaks new ground on an important subject, deftly combing a history of theology with social, cultural, and legal studies."
-- University of Heidelberg
"A scholarly tour de force that ingeniously interrogates the theological discourse around the seminal institution of marriage. A. G. Roeber interconnects with empirical dexterity sociological developments across the expanse of three continents, with influences ranging from polygamy to pietism during the early modern epoch. A refreshingly insightful comparative study."
Richard J. Ross
-- University of Illinois
"Roeber sensitively reconstructs debates over marriage within the early modern international pietist movement. He brilliantly synthesizes theology, popular religion, and the day-to-day experience of married life. His story is resolutely transnational, at once embracing theologians at the University of Halle, immigrants in the backcountry of British North America, and pastors in German missions in India. . . . This is a historical work of immense learning, broad reach, and enduring relevance."
-- University of Kiel
"Hopes for Better Spouses makes for fascinating reading at a time when half of all marriages end in divorce. With deep erudition Roeber recounts the struggle of pietists in vastly different societies -- early modern Germany, British North America, and South India -- to find lasting solutions for the bond between husband and wife, and he sketches the consequence of these attempts for modern conceptions of marriage."
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