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Marriage patterns in Greece during the twentieth century



Typologies of marriage patterns in early modern Europe have been formulated by John Hajnal and Peter Laslett. However, demographic and anthropological studies have noticed that marriage patterns in the Balkan area have exhibited such great variability that it is difficult to classify them in any of the categories proposed by Laslett. This article examines the marriage patterns in Greece and some of her island populations in the time-span of the twentieth century. Although the marriage patterns examined do not conform to any pre-defined typology, it seems that up to the first half of the twentieth century the pattern of mainland Greece constituted an intermediate case between the West and the East European marriage patterns but that that on the islands was totally different. The marriage patterns on the Ionian Islands had more features in common with the West European pattern, while the marriage pattern of the Cyclades reveals certain characteristics (but not all) of the Mediterranean pattern.



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1 P. Laslett, ‘Family and household as work group and kin group: areas of traditional Europe compared’, in R. Wall ed., Family forms in historic Europe (Cambridge, 1983), 513–63.

2 J. Hajnal, ‘European marriage patterns in perspective’, in D. V. Glass and D. E. C. Eversley eds., Population in history: essays in historical demography (London, 1965), 101–43, p. 101.

3 Ibid., 101.

4 See for example D. S. Reher, Town and country in pre-industrial Spain: Cuenca, 1540–1870 (Cambridge, 1990), Kertzer, I. D. and Brettell, C., ‘Advances in Italian and Iberian family history’, Journal of Family History 12 (1987), 87120, and also Hionidou, V., ‘Nineteenth-century urban Greek households: the case of Hermoupolis, 1861–1879’, Continuity and Change 14:3 (1999), 403–27.

5 Hajnal, J., ‘Age at marriage and proportion marrying’, Population Studies 7 (1953), 111–36.

6 Ministère de l'Intérieur, Service du Recensement, Résultats statistiques du recensement général de la population effectué le 27 octobre 1907 (Athens, 1909); Statistique Générale de la Grèce, Recensement de la population de la Grèce au 19 décembre 1920/1 janvier 1921 (Athens, 1928); Statistique Générale de la Grèce, Résultats statistique du recensement de la population de la Grèce du 15–16 mai 1928 (Athènes, 1933); Statistique Nationale de la Grèce, Population de la Grèce au recensement du 7 avril 1951 (Athens, 1955–1961); National Statistical Service of Greece, Results of the population and housing census of 19 March 1961 (Athens, 1962–1967); National Statistical Service of Greece, Results of the population and housing census of 14 March 1971 (Athens, 1973); National Statistical Service of Greece, Results of the population and housing census of 5 April 1981 (Athens, 1984); National Statistical Service of Greece, Results of the population and housing census of 17 March 1991 (Athens, 1998); URL: [Results of the population and housing census of 18 March 2001].

7 Valaoras, V. G., ‘A reconstruction of the demographic history of modern Greece’, The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 38:2 (1960), 115–39.

8 P. Laslett, ‘Family and household’, 533.

9 D. A. Coleman, ‘Recent trends in marriage and divorce in Britain and Europe’, in R. W. Hiorns ed., Demographic patterns in developed societies (London, 1980).

10 Dixon, R. B., ‘Explaining cross-cultural variations in age at marriage and proportions never marrying’, Population Studies 25:2 (1971), 215–33, pp. 221–2.

11 The terms ‘endogamous’ and ‘exogamous’ are used here in a geographical sense, that is the Ionian Islands would be an endogamous society if people were getting married within their island only.

12 V. S. Gavalas, ‘Demographic reconstruction of a Greek island community: Naoussa and Kostos on Paros, 1894–1998’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, 2001).

13 Calculations are based on life tables taken from M. Papadakis and K. Tsimpos, Demographic analysis [in Greek] (Athens, 2004).

14 The shortage of males in the islands compared to Greece as a whole may be due to the existence on the islands of many sailors and seafarers, who were not present at the time that the census took place.

15 K. G. Yangakis, Demographic issues of the Cyclades 1821–1971 [in Greek] (Athens, 1978).

16 R. Clogg, A short history of modern Greece (Cambridge, 1992).

17 Yangakis, Demographic issues, 20.

18 M. S. Hartman, The household and the making of history: a subversive view of the Western past (Cambridge, 2004).

19 June, S. L., ‘The role of marriage behaviour during demographic transition: the case of Eastern Europe around 1900’, Population Studies 28:2 (1974), 231–47.

20 It is noteworthy, however, that even in Protestant England family, friends and fictive kin could influence decisions about marriage. See O'Hara, Diana, ‘“Ruled by my friends”: aspects of marriage in the diocese of Canterbury, c. 1540–1570’, Continuity and Change 6:1 (1991), 941.

21 W. J. Goode, World revolution and famlily patterns (New York, 1963), 8.

22 June, ‘The role of marriage behaviour’, 237.

23 Ibid., 238.

25 G. Petropoulos, The history and suggestions of the Roman law [in Greek] (Athens, 1955), 531–2.

26 M. Kenna, ‘The idiom of family’, in J. G. Peristiany ed., Mediterranean family structures (Cambridge, 1976), 347–62.

27 Local informants from the island of Paros attest that there are several cases of children of the opposite sex sharing a godparent. The existence of co-godchildren of the opposite sex is also discussed by du Boulay, J., in ‘The blood: symbolic relationships between descent, marriage, incest prohibition and spiritual kinship in Greece’, MAN 19:4 (1984), 533–56, at endnote 11.

28 See for example S. P. Cassia and C. Dada, The making of the modern Greek family (Cambridge, 1992), and V. Hionidou, ‘The demography of a Greek island, Mykonos 1859–1959’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Liverpool, 1993), and also Gavalas, V. S., ‘Family formation and dissolution in an Aegean island’, Journal of Biosocial History 37 (2005), 351–70.

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Marriage patterns in Greece during the twentieth century



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