This chapter describes how families, for centuries, have been based on the union created through marriage, and, until recently, families and households have in their turn been the nuclei of society, the place where production took place and where new generations were raised. Even today, when marriage is not necessarily conceived of as a lasting engagement and when family members seldom work together to make a living, marriage nevertheless remains a predominant model for human life. Western culture has been and is still permeated with symbols and stories that underline the importance of marriage. Reading the Bible and listening to sermons, medieval and early modern people became closely acquainted with characters like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Esau and Jacob, and this reinforced their own sense of how childbearing, courtship, and strategies of inheritance were vital parts of human life.
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