Breaking the Ties That Bound: The Politics of Marital Strife in Late Imperial Russia (Hardback)Barbara Alpern Engel (author)
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Russia's Great Reforms of 1861 were sweeping social and legal changes that aimed to modernize the country. In the following decades, rapid industrialization and urbanization profoundly transformed Russia's social, economic, and cultural landscape. Barbara Alpern Engel explores the personal, cultural, and political consequences of these dramatic changes, focusing on their impact on intimate life and expectations and the resulting challenges to the traditional, patriarchal family order, the cornerstone of Russia's authoritarian political and religious regime. The widely perceived "marriage crisis" had far-reaching legal, institutional, and political ramifications. In Breaking the Ties That Bound, Engel draws on exceptionally rich archival documentation-in particular, on petitions for marital separation and the materials generated by the ensuing investigations-to explore changing notions of marital relations, domesticity, childrearing, and intimate life among ordinary men and women in imperial Russia.
Engel illustrates with unparalleled vividness the human consequences of the marriage crisis. Her research reveals in myriad ways that the new and more individualistic values of the capitalist marketplace and commercial culture challenged traditional definitions of gender roles and encouraged the self-creation of new social identities. Engel captures the intimate experiences of women and men of the lower and middling classes in their own words, documenting instances not only of physical, mental, and emotional abuse but also of resistance and independence. These changes challenged Russia's rigid political order, forcing a range of state agents, up to and including those who spoke directly in the name of the tsar, to rethink traditional understandings of gender norms and family law. This remarkable social history is thus also a contribution to our understanding of the deepening political crisis of autocracy.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 296
Weight: 539 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 23 mm
"Engel examines how Russians of various classes and estates understood marital obligations and the behavior and conditions that were egregious enough to justify loosening the ties. In the process, she examines perceptions of gender roles, how these varied by estate and class, and how attitudes shifted at the end of the nineteenth century. . . . The cases are fascinating and provide rare insights into Russian domestic life. . . . Highly recommended."-Choice (November 2011)
"Barbara Alpern Engel provides a captivating and well-researched book in this newest addition to her already impressive bibliography. She uses her remarkable knowledge to analyze an archival source specific to the turn of the nineteenth century. In doing so, she details rich, new glimpses into the lives of both women and men, of all social estates, specifically their perceptions of gender roles within one of the most sacred of Russian institutions-marriage. . . . This should be a staple for all students and scholars of Russian social and legal history."-Katie Lynn, Slavic and East European Journal (Spring 2013)
"Breaking the Ties That Bound is a tour de force on the history of gender, marriage, and family in the context of the changing intellectual and cultural currents of nineteenth-century Russia. With her enormous expertise in social and cultural history, Barbara Alpern Engel provides compassionate and richly colorful stories of women's and men's lives and their use of law courts, enabling readers to understand individuals' loves and quarrels as women struggled within the confines of their society. Engel compellingly discusses dowries, romantic love, involuntary marriage, sexuality, adultery, domestic violence, work, marital subservience, separation, and women's self-assertion and power within the patriarchal demands of their fathers and husbands. Engel's writing is elegant and clear, making this fascinating book accessible to a broad general audience of scholars and students interested in families, the law, the emotions, women's history, and women's assertions of selfhood within a patriarchal society anywhere in the world."-Rachel G. Fuchs, Distinguished Foundation Professor of History, Arizona State University, and author of Contested Paternity: Constructing Families in Modern France
"Barbara Alpern Engel uses petitions for divorce in late imperial Russia to illuminate the intimate world of private emotion, as well as changing attitudes toward women and domestic life. A tour de force of creative research and historical interpretation, Breaking the Ties That Bound is sure to be a classic in the field."-Laura Engelstein, Henry S. McNeil Professor of Russian History, Yale University, and author of Slavophile Empire: Imperial Russia's Illiberal Path
"Breaking the Ties That Bound is a marvelous book. Using a remarkable set of sources that record the voices of men and women who want to dissolve their marriages, Engel enters the most intimate dimensions of human relationships. We learn that, as in the United States, married women could not dispose of their own persons. But they could and did own and control property. And that made all the difference when it came to questions of male honor, of child custody, of domestic violence, and of romantic love. This book illuminates the social history of family everywhere."-Alice Kessler-Harris, author of Gendering Labor History
"Mining the rich archive of the Imperial Chancellery for the Receipt of Petitions, Barbara Alpern Engel offers a vibrant account of the intersection of law and marital life in late Imperial Russia. In a context of rigid laws and changing attitudes toward marital, family, and personal life, conservative state officials felt compelled to respond to petitions from distressed wives by providing them with a means of escaping broken marriages and living independently. The personal stories of marital strife recounted by Engel also open a unique and valuable window onto family life in Russia during a period of wrenching change."-William G. Wagner, Dean of the Faculty and Brown Professor of History, Williams College, author of Marriage, Property, and Law in Late Imperial Russia