Actually I learned this a few days ago listening to the radio, but I filed it away as a totally fascinating concept.
A sociologist was talking about the creation of marriage vows way back whenever (he probably said the date, but I didn't catch it). He meant the bit about "fidelity" and "until death do us part" or however it is phrased in the various languages.
What he said was that these vows were created back when the life expectancy of a woman was age 30. This was of course due to all of the deaths in childbirth and such. But the main point was that when you swore lifelong fidelity and all of that other stuff back then, you were talking about 5-10 years in most cases.
hm... if the life expectancy was 30 for women, did women only marry in their 20s then? if the marriages on average lasted only 5 to 10 years until one of them (by what you said usually the mother) died, does that mean the majority of children grew up as orphans or half-orphans?
I think that "life expectancy being 30" means that many people died young (as children) and others lived much longer. After all, life expectancy statistics are averages. So even if there were indeed more orphans, it isn't as dramatic as it sounds first off.
The sociologist's reasoning is pretty specious. He's saying that a bunch of people co-writing the official marriage vows decided to take a look at actuarial tables, then said sure, the average Joe will be able to keep it in his pants for that long so we'll just write that fidelity part in.
Whereas it's undoubtedly true that more women died in childbirth in earlier times, men also dropped right & left from consumption or from job-related injuries and illnesses. And definitely those statistics reflect the much higher rate of infant mortality in an age where people had more children in general.
Actually, as a species humans were probably tougher in past times, since it was more than likely that only the most robust survived to reproduce and pass on their sturdy genes.
Re: orphans -- looking at genealogical records in any given family shows that people usually remarried after the death of a spouse. Economically and practically, it was often their only option, right up to fairly modern times.
looking at genealogical records in any given family shows that people usually remarried after the death of a spouse. Economically and practically, it was often their only option, right up to fairly modern times.
I was just going to say that! And "blended families" is not a new concept. Those orphans were swiftly incorporated into a new marriage that often/always involved new half-siblings, if not step-siblings. And the new wives were often much younger than the husband, replacing the one who died in childbirth.
In my Dad's family, his uncle's wife died giving birth to twins, and Uncle Ray and the three older children came to live with my Dad's family of 4 kids, while the newborn twins were adopted out to a childless couple. A few years later Ray remarried and he and his 3 kids formed a new household with the new wife.
Years (decades) later, the twins were reunited with the rest of the family and still stay in touch with the family.
well if the 30 years life expectancy is an average, including deaths at childhood, then i would suppose the average marriage lasted for longer than 5 to 10 years though... (that was what i wanted to get to anyway... i think...)
And that was the whole point of the sociologist. He was not necessarily suggesting that it was a good thing, but simply that certain "rules" laid down in olden times were difficult or impossible to follow. I am somewhat astonished at how people try to cling to certain things like this.
the paternal one I think was orphaned very young of both parents and he was fostered/adopted by another family. I know he had at least two sisters who must have been older as they went to work as maids in France. (and found husbands there). I don't know of other siblings.
My maternal grand father's father died accidentally a few weeks/days before my grandpa was born. He was the last of 10 children and several of his brothers moved to the USA - he was supposed to join them but could never bring himself to do it. He decided to remain in Europe. His sisters married. I don't know if there was a step-father involved.
Dans les grandes choses, les hommes se montrent comme il leur convient de se montrer; dans les petites, ils se montrent comme ils sont.
I was reading an article about Umberto Eco who has edited and made some corrections to The Name of the Rose. One of the things he removed was a reference to counting seconds, because seconds didn't exist in the Middle Ages.
I immediately looked it up and learned that seconds appeared on clocks during the last half of the 16th century.
Actually, at the French revolution, when they wanted to change just about EVERYTHING that had ever existed, there was a proposal to abolish traditional timekeeping and to divide the day into a period of 10 hours of 100 minutes of 100 seconds. To make it work, they would have had to change the length of a second, and they were just not revolutionary enough. (Just for the record, today's date is 13 Pluviôse 220, according to the Revolutionary calendar.)
Considering how seemingly "obvious" the system that we use is with its ridiculous 24 hours, 60 minutes and 60 seconds, I wonder what it is like to teach timekeeping to primitive tribes in equatorial Africa, the Amazon or New Guinea. They must think that we are absolutely crazy!