International Review of Social History


Finding the Right Partner: Rural Homogamy in Nineteenth-Century Sweden 1

Martin  Dribe  and Christer  Lundh 


In pre-industrial society, choosing a marriage partner was a crucial process, and especially so for landowners. This study focuses on social aspects of mate selection in five rural parishes in southern Sweden between 1829 and 1894, using an individual-level database containing information on a large number of marriages and the social origins of the marrying couple regardless of whether they were born in the relevant parish or not. The information makes it possible to study homogamy without introducing the possible selection biases implicit in looking only at non-migrating population, a consideration which is of great importance in a society characterized by very high levels of geographical mobility. The results show a community marked by quite strong homogamy but with pronounced differences among social groups. Landholding peasants were the most homogamous. The pattern of homogamy also remained fairly constant despite fundamental economic and social change.

(Published Online December 23 2005)


1 An earlier version of this article was presented at the 5th European Social Science History Conference (Berlin, 24–27 March 2004). We are grateful to Antoinette Fauve-Chamoux, Bart Van de Putte, Patrick Svensson, and the editors of this issue for comments and suggestions. Martin Dribe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS). Christer Lundh's research was undertaken as part of the projects “Age at Marriage in Sweden 1750–1900: Trends and Regional Variations”, funded by the Swedish Council for Research in the Humanities and Social Science (HSFR), and “Early-Life Conditions, Social Mobility, and Longevity: Social Differences and Trends in Mortality in Sweden, 1650–1900”, funded by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS).