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  • Cited by 3
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2021
Print publication year:
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Book description

The Marriage Act 1836 established the foundations of modern marriage law, allowing couples to marry in register offices and non-Anglican places of worship for the first time. Rebecca Probert draws on an exceptionally wide range of primary sources to provide the first detailed examination of marriage legislation, social practice, and their mutual interplay, from 1836 through to the unanticipated demands of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. She analyses how and why the law has evolved, closely interrogating the parliamentary and societal debates behind legislation. She demonstrates how people have chosen to marry and how those choices have changed, and evaluates how far the law has been help or hindrance in enabling couples to marry in ways that reflect their beliefs, be they religious or secular. In an era of individual choice and multiculturalism, Tying the Knot sign posts possible ways in which future legislators might avoid the pitfalls of the past.


‘With reform of weddings law back on the agenda, Rebecca Probert's fascinating study underscores how recourse to history can show that while the contexts has changed, the problems we face are not new and that reform is needed to untangle this knotty area of law. This is an exemplar of what historically informed legal analysis can achieve and deserves to be widely read by legal historians and family lawyers alike.'

Russell Sandberg - Cardiff University

‘Tying the Knot brings to life the evolution of marriage laws over the course of almost two centuries drawing on multiple source materials to weave engrossing narratives. With a focus on the relationship between law and practice, this book details the historic and current role of the law in defining how a couple can marry in accordance with their beliefs, making it highly relevant to contemporary debates.'

Rajnaara Akhtar - De Montfort University

‘This book ‘celebrates', as it were, both weddings and their laws. Only the stand-out family lawyer of her generation could meld the two with such apparent ease. If you like love, law, history, religion and politics this is the book for you. Don't borrow a copy –  buy one.'

Chris Barton - Emeritus Professor of Family Law, Staffordshire University

‘Tying the Knot is an excellent book and fills the gap of scholarship in the history of English marriage law. It accomplishes a remarkable feat in sustaining a consistent theme and narrative across two centuries of history.'

Henry Kha Source: International Journal of Law, Policy and The Family

‘… an engaging, informative study of the history of English marriage law … Recommended.’

A. C. Stanley Source: Choice Connect

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