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Hopes for Better Spouses
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Hopes for Better Spouses


Eerdmans 2013

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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.

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Key Features

  • Reconstructs the battles between official theological belief and practice surrounding the marriage relationship
  • Concentrates on the version of “church” pietism identified with the town of Halle on the Saale River


  • Mystics, Marriage, and Early Lutheran Piety
  • Arguing with Aquinas? Malanchthon, Mystics, and Marriage
  • Pietism, Marriage, and Princely Sovreignty, 1670–1740
  • Polygamy and Pietism: The India Mission Shapes the Debate
  • The Moravians, the Church, and Marriage
  • Marriage in North America: Social Discipline, and Cultural Diversity
  • After Pietism, after the Church: Romance, Companions, Contracts

Praise for the Print Edition

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.

—Gita Dharampal-Frick, professor of modern South Asian history, University of Heidelberg

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.

Richard J. Ross, professor of law and history, University of Illinois

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.

—Hartmut Lehmann, professor, University of Kiel

Product Details

  • Title: Hopes for Better Spouses: Protestant Marriage and Church Renewal in Early Modern Europe, India, and North America
  • Author: A. G. Roeber
  • Series: Emory University Studies in Law and Religion
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Pages: 317

About A. G. Roeber

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.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition