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This ambitious, impressive, and absorbing book seeks to chronicle the history of divorce in Western society from the Middle Ages to the present. It begins by describing the ideological positions on divorce of the Catholic Church and of the Protestant reformers. From this description grows the book's first theme, the story of the development of divorce legislation. Phillips examines the insistence of Catholic states on marital indissolubility, traces the acceptance in Protestant states of divorce -primarily for adultery- and reviews the strikingly liberal law of revolutionary France. After noting that divorce law was procedurally and substantively secularized in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Phillips details the liberalization of divorce law in the early nineteenth century and the conservative reaction in the later nineteenth century. The liberalization of divorce law resumed after World War I, a process that culminated in the explosion of no-fault divorce from the 1960s through the 1980s. Intertwined with this history of divorce statutes is the book's second theme, the study of the incidence of divorce. Rates were trivially low for centuries, increased in the nineteenth century, and culminated in the rise of mass divorce in the twentieth century.


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