History of Marriage Law: Reading Group

Harvard Law School: HLS-2660-1

Fall 2014

Charles Donahue

Meeting Time: M 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM, WCC 3015

Professor Charles Donahue
1 classroom credit

The roots of western marriage law go back into the ancient world. Marriage was the subject of multiple and conflicting jurisdictions during the medieval and early modern periods (and, to some extent, even today). In each period pieces of the Judaeo-Christian tradition were combined with pieces of Roman law and customary law, and then recombined as a result of religious, social, and political changes.

A few years ago, I gave a seminar on this topic, in which we surveyed the entire topic. We began with the Hebrew Bible and ended with the European codifications of the nineteenth century, with a brief sequel that brought the story to the New World. It was fun, but it was too much. Nothing was covered really adequately, and the students were not really able to get into a period until they wrote papers. When it was all over, a number of the students said that they wished that we had spent more time on the Ancient World. How things got combined and recombined was clear enough. What was not clear was how it all started.

We have only half the amount of time that we had in the seminar. I initially proposed that we devote ourselves entirely to the Ancient World. At the orgnizational meeting there was considerable interest in carrying the story into Middle Ages. I ended up with a syllabus that anticipates the Middle Ages in the two sessions on Roman law, and then devotes two sessions entirely to the Middle Ages. There follow six two-hour sessions designed to do it all and end early in November.





Mon., Sep. 8—Organizational Meeting.


Mon., Sep. 22—Marriage in the Hebrew Bible. The Torah. Genesis 1–2; Exodus 22:16–17; Leviticus 18; Deuteronomy 22:13–28; Deuteronomy 24:15. (Materials, pp. 8–12.); The Prophets: Hosea 1–2; Malachai 2:11–16 (Materials, pp. 18–20.) The Writings. Ruth 3:1–4.13; Psalm 128 (Materials, pp. 16–18, 20.)


Mon., Sep. 29—Marriage in the New Testament. Mark 10:2–12; Luke 16:18; Matthew 5:31–32; Matthew 19:3–12; 1 Corinthians 7; Ephesians 5:21–6:9. (Materials, pp. 22–24.)


Mon., Oct. 6—Marriage in Roman Law 1. Gaius, Institutes, bk. 1 (extracts); Justinian, Institutes, bk. 1 (extracts); Medieval Glosses on Justinian’s Institutes. (Materials, pp. 25–37, 74–76.)


(October 13 is a holiday.)


Mon., Oct. 20—Marriage in Roman Law 2. Digest, 23.2; Code, 5.4; Medieval Glosses on the Digest. (Materials, pp. 38–49, 76–78.)


Mon., Oct. 27—Marriage Law in the Early Middle Ages. Aethelbert’s ‘Code’; the Collection in 74 Titles. (Materials, pp. 50–59.)


Mon., Nov. 3—Marriage Law in the High Middle Ages. Gratian on Marriage; Veniens ad Nos; Dolling c. Smith; Tametsi. (Materials, pp. 58–69, 75–76, 94–98, 113–114.) What does it all add up to?



Please send comments to Rosemary Spang

URL: http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/cdonahue/courses/ReadingGrp/index.html
last modified: 09/11/14

© Charles Donahue, Jr. 2014