The Rise and Fall of Close Marriage
Cousin marriage, two brothers marrying two sisters (double sibling marriage), or a sister and brother from one family marrying a brother and sister from another (sibling exchange marriage), defines ‘close marriage’. It was an accepted method of choosing a known partner at the heart of kinship networks, for example the Darwins and Wedgwoods. Among commercial, professional, farming, and artisan groups it provided a pool of trustworthy kin for the enterprise. It peaked in the 1870-80s, for example, among civil servants, scientists, educators, and writers. However, familial disputes affected commercial/professional affairs and vice versa. As the birth rate declined there were fewer siblings and cousins to make the practice possible. By the 1920s scientific and popular opinion made the idea of ‘blood relatives’ marrying seem incestuous. High incidence of cousin marriage in other parts of the world and among immigrant communities in the West now causes anxiety about their offspring.
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