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Was marrying cousins acceptable?In several works I teach from the Victorian Era, first...

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troutmiller | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted May 10, 2012 at 2:57 PM via web

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Was marrying cousins acceptable?

In several works I teach from the Victorian Era, first cousins fell in love and married each other.  Was this socially acceptable or should we look at these characters differently?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 10, 2012 at 3:18 PM (Answer #2)

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Marriage among cousins was a hallmark of preindustrial societies in which elites placed a premium on keeping property within their families, but began to decline in the nineteenth in the United States, where several states in the United States had banned the practice before the Civil War. (It remains legal in many states) Whether these laws reflected contemporary social mores or not is another question. In Victorian England, in any case, it seems to have remained common among the wealthy middle classes, where families tended to be so tightly-knit, and obsessions with regulating young people's sexuality was so intense, that young people often had few chances to form intimate relationships with anyone other than their cousins. So in short, I don't think the characters you reference would have violated any taboo in marrying their cousins. I have listed two links below that address this issue:

 http://books.google.com/books?id=vNEv5tw-fjsC&pg=PA137&lpg=PA137&dq=marrying+cousins+victorian+england&source=bl&ots=9Lh-7BULyI&sig=Sbav_aKOu1yA76gI8tqUV_-cenI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NdqrT6vlOoy3twfB_KGiAg&ved=0CGkQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=marrying%20cousins%20victorian%20england&f=false

http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.0060320

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 10, 2012 at 3:22 PM (Answer #3)

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Cousins did marry.  Usually the reason was to keep the money in the family.  It was not until the latter part of the 19th century that the practice came under suspicion.  They had very little understanding of genetics before.  I found some interesting articles on the subject. 

Here is one on the evolution of cousin marriage in Victorian England: http://jfh.sagepub.com/content/11/3/285.abstract  

Here are some more rules about Victorian Courtship. http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/agunn/teaching/enl3251/vf/pres/ziegenfuss.htm

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 10, 2012 at 6:57 PM (Answer #4)

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The previous posts are right on target. Marrying cousins, even first cousins, was a way of keeping money and property in the family, and it was practiced at all levels of society. Only much later when negative genetic patterns were discovered was the practice frowned upon.

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cfett | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted May 11, 2012 at 2:09 AM (Answer #5)

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Post #4 is correct: the previous posts are, indeed, right on target. I might add that several famous people, including author Edgar Allan Poe, married their first cousins (his was Virginia Clemm, often cited to be the love of his life).  There are still, now, many states that allow first cousins to marry -- and a handful that allow first cousins to marry under certain circumstances.  See the following link for more information:

http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/human-services/state-laws-regarding-marriages-between-first-cousi.aspx

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pacorz | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted May 11, 2012 at 1:34 PM (Answer #6)

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I agree with the previous posts - this was socially acceptable, as people had no understanding of genetics and consequently no reason to think the practice was not a good idea. In fact, in some ancient societies royal siblings sometimes married to keep the bloodlines pure.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 16, 2012 at 9:56 PM (Answer #7)

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Marrying cousins is not just limited to the past.  Remember the rock'n'roll star Jerry Lee Lewis (who is still alive) who married his 13 year old cousin? In some of the Appalachian states, this marriage of cousins goes on today.  In a very rural county of my state, for instance, one man married his cousin.  When told it is illegal to marry his first cousin, he was shocked!  (No, the theme from Deliverance was not played at his wedding)

On a more serious note, Wuthering Heights provides us with examples of this practice.  Since families were often very isolated as in Bronte's novel, there was little occasion to meet people outside of one's extended family.

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historiaamator | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted June 4, 2012 at 2:17 PM (Answer #8)

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Yes,totally acpeetable. Ferdinad and Isabella (Catherine of Aragon's parents) were cousins and they are many instances of cousions marrying throughout history. It was always really prevalant in the royal families because dynstanies usaully marry to seal alliances. And if you only let your sons and daughters marry into the royal families of Spain,Russia,Scotland,France,and England--surely enough you get realted.

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alphawolf9 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted June 16, 2012 at 5:36 AM (Answer #9)

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Yes,it still is some communities :P

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ayy-dee | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted June 19, 2012 at 6:02 PM (Answer #10)

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Yes, But only in some communities. Majority of the communities were not allowed!! As mentioned in 1 of the posts above it was mainly to keep the money in the family.

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ayy-dee | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted June 26, 2012 at 4:37 PM (Answer #12)

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yes it is acceptable now days but in the past was it acceptable???

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slygirl | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted June 29, 2012 at 8:33 PM (Answer #14)

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Up until about the 1700's it was very common for cousins to marry. It was often to keep the family bloodline pure and intact. Another reason was to keep family property within the family.
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angel-girl | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted July 4, 2012 at 1:25 PM (Answer #15)

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Yes it was acceptable! In the past, people had no choice as there were high mortality and high infant mortality rates. Thus as long as they are not siblings they are allowed to marry as they need children to contribute the population of the country.

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systemwave | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 5, 2012 at 1:57 AM (Answer #16)

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It is still acceptible in MOST parts of the world, especially in rural areas and including Eastern European countries.  Albert Einstein married his first cousin.

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salimj | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:19 AM (Answer #17)

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I do not know much about the genetic problems faced by the people who marries their cousins. But I am of the opinion that if there is a true love between two cousins they must get married

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wahnails | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted July 7, 2012 at 4:06 AM (Answer #18)

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Yes it was, it wasn't a big deal until we found out that it wasn't good because the offspring might get weird DNA.

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ayeshanihal | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted July 7, 2012 at 2:00 PM (Answer #19)

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Yes in some communities they were allowed and in many countries it was not allowed and as i think no one might be doing it now a days.It might be still going on also but i have never heard.

 

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historiaamator | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:20 PM (Answer #20)

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Yes,totally acpeetable. Ferdinad and Isabella (Catherine of Aragon's parents) were cousins and they are many instances of cousions marrying throughout history. It was always really prevalant in the royal families because dynstanies usaully marry to seal alliances. And if you only let your sons and daughters marry into the royal families of Spain,Russia,Scotland,France,and England--surely enough you get realted.

Also Albert and Victoria were cousins.

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udonbutterfly | TA , College Freshman | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted November 22, 2014 at 2:32 PM (Answer #21)

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It was very common to keep lineage within the same circle or greater. Protecting lineage was such a valued thing that I am pretty sure that no one thought twice or batted their eyes at marrying their cousin. If only they knew this is what contributed to the high death rate in babies as well as the disfiguration and mental illness of the children as well sterility for men (which was usually blamed on the women). However it is seen through a lot of novels that time. Two that come mind would be Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth was asked to marry her cousin and Wuthering Heights when Catherine married Linton and Hareton.

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