It is an encouraging sign of advancing culture that history is gaining a deeper and broader meaning. We are really becoming interested, not merely in our political, but also in our entire biological, psychological, and social evolution. Although such phrase-making is nearly always misleading, there would perhaps be more truth in saying that “history is past sociology and sociology present history” than in Freeman’s well-known epigram. In particular, the human family, with all that the word connotes, is commanding greater attention. Yet there is urgent need that its rise and social function should have far more earnest study than they now receive. The family and its cognate institutions ought to enter more fully into popular thought; and they should have much larger relative space in the educational program. From the home circle to the university seminar they are worthy to become a vital part of systematic social training. In the hope of aiding somewhat in winning for them due scientific recognition, this book is written. It seems not impossible that a sustained history of the matrimonial institutions of the English race in its “three homes” may prove a positive advantage, especially in gathering the materials and planning the work for more detailed investigations. Moreover, a thorough understanding of the social evolution of any people must rest upon the broader experience of mankind. Accordingly, in Part I the attempt is made to present a comprehensive and systematic analysis of the literature and the theories of primitive matrimonial institutions.

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