Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation Germany

(Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995; paperback: 2005)


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 1996;


This book examines the impact of the Protestant Reformation on both the ideal and practice of marriage in sixteenth-century Germany. Unlike previous specialized and esoteric monographs, this study synthesizes the author's extensive archival work with a broad array of scholarly research in legal, theological, and, especially, social history. His most important conclusion is the minimal impact of Protestant marriage reforms, and the striking similarity in this respect to concurrent Catholic measures, particularly in the actual formation and preservation of marriages.







"...intelligently conceived and well executed....this is a very good book."  Thomas A. Brady, Jr. The Catholic Historical Review.

“Harrington’s field of vision and his grasp of the subject (not to mention his linguistic skills in Latin, French, Spanish, and German) are breathtaking and constitute this book as a remarkable piece of wide-ranging scholarship.”  Robert Scribner, American Journal of Sociology

"...a first-rate book on marriage and the control of sexuality in sixteenth-century Germany, solidly based on both published and archival important contribution to scholarship, showing the conjunction among social, religious, and legal history.”  Jeffrey R. Watt, Journal of Social History.

" both illuminates an important aspect of the history of the family and reveals how much of its complex and multi-faceted history remains to be explored." Joachim Whaley, Times Literary Supplement

“This calm, masterful presentation of jurisdictional realities will serve as a corrective to contemporary scholars who regard the Reformation as a watershed, for better or for worse, in the history of European matrimony.” Susan Karant-Nunn,  American Historical Review

"...this well-documented, convincingly-argued book shows the aims of both religious and secular reformers in both Protestant and Catholic territories to have been conservative in nature, committed to enforcing the view of marriage that had been developing for centuries." Laurel Carrington, The American Journal of Legal History.


“The chief virtue of this fine book is its success in analyzing the interaction between reform ideas and actual practices, thus contributing to the discussion of the social impact of Protestant reform.”  R. Po-Chia Hsia, Economic History Review

“A magnum opus building on the superb work of Professor Gerald Strauss…the book projects the three-dimensional nature of an age of transition.”  Peter Newman Brooks, Expository Times


“A well-written, thorough, and statistically supported piece or research, profuse in reference to other relevant modern scholarship.”  Anthony Levi, The Heythrop Journal

"Harrington's account of the convergence of Catholic and Protestant reform of marriage is generally persuasive....[his] book is a solid addition to the growing literature on ideas and social practices in the Reformation era." John Theibault, Central European History.

" excellent summation of the history of ecclesiastical doctrine--theological and legal--from the twelfth to the sixteenth century... Its analysis of the literature on marriage--both scholarly and contemporary--is masterful."  Thomas M. Safley, Sixteenth Century Journal

"This is an ambitious study...densely researched...clear and even-handed...This element alone is an important service to field; that this study goes further and challenges scholars to widen the context of the discussion of marriage is praiseworthy and important." Marc Forster, The Historian

"Harrington draws on extensive archival studies and an impressive mastery of the vast secondary literature. Sophisticated scholarly apparatus."  Robin B. Barnes, Choice

"Joel Harrington has done both specialists and non-specialists a great service by providing a book-length study that deserves to be read by a wide audience, including those interested in parts of the world well beyond Reformation Germany." Merry Wiesner-Hanks,  Journal of the History of Sexuality.

"For scholars interested in the family history of the sixteenth century. Joel Harrington's new book is a must-read. In a highly contentious field, Harrington has produced a work as provocative as any of its predecessors." Benjamin Kaplan, The Journal of Modern History.