Book Review of Sarah M. S. Pearsall, Polygamy: An Early American History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019
“Book Review of Sarah M. S. Pearsall, Polygamy: An Early American History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019),” Journal of Law and Religion 35 (2020): 353-357
7 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2021
Date Written: 2020
This volume is a strikingly original interdisciplinary study of the diverse practices of polygamy in America from 1500 to 1900. Polygamy was a cornerstone of a number of Native American and African-American civilizations, Pearsall shows, just as much as monogamy was a cornerstone of the American colonies and young American republic. Small wonder then, that American colonization and expansion onto the western frontier brought an inevitable “clash of civilizations”—with fights over the form and the function of the family as a central battleground. The book offers exquisitely documented case studies of these clashes from Mexico to Quebec, from New England to southern California, together with the more familiar federal clash with the new Mormon communities. The law and theology of marriage get blurred a bit with the author’s laser sharp focus on the diverse practices of polygamists and the predictable pugilism of monogamists, but this book is highly commended.
Keywords: Law, Religion, Law and Religion, Sarah Pearsall, marriage, polygamy, monogamy, Native American polygamy, African slavery, clash of civilizations
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