Similarity in Difference

From Eurasian Population and Family History

Similarity in Difference

Marriage in Europe and Asia, 1700-1900

By Christer Lundh and Satomi Kurosu

A study of marriage in preindustrial Europe and Asia that goes beyond the Malthusian East–West dichotomy to find variation within regions and commonality across regions.





A study of marriage in preindustrial Europe and Asia that goes beyond the Malthusian East–West dichotomy to find variation within regions and commonality across regions.

Since Malthus, an East–West dichotomy has been used to characterize marriage behavior in Asia and Europe. Marriages in Asia were said to be early and universal, in Europe late and non-universal. In Europe, marriages were supposed to be the result of individual choices but, in Asia, decided by families and communities. This book challenges this binary taxonomy of marriage patterns and family systems. Drawing on richer and more nuanced data, the authors compare the interpretations based on aggregate demographic patterns with studies of individual actions in local populations. Doing so, they are able to analyze simultaneously the influence on marriage decisions of individual demographic features, socioeconomic status and composition of the household, and local conditions, and the interactions of these variables. They find differences between East and West but also variation within regions and commonality across regions.

The book studies local populations in Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Japan, and China. Rather than a simple comparison of aggregate marriage patterns, it examines marriage outcomes and determinants of local populations in different countries using similar data and methods. The authors first present the results of comparative analyses of first marriage and remarriage and then offer chapters each of which is devoted to the results from a specific country. Similarity in Difference is the third in a prizewinning series on the demographic history of Eurasia, following Life under Pressure (2004) and Prudence and Pressure (2009), both published by the MIT Press.


$53.00 X ISBN: 9780262027946 544 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 7 maps, 21 figures, 77 tables


  • In this path-breaking book, Lundh, Kurosu, and colleagues seek nothing less than to displace, or at least to greatly complicate, the standard narrative about both the so-called European marriage pattern and its counterpart the narrative of universal and early marriage in East Asia. They succeed brilliantly. The authors offer an extremely complex and nuanced picture of the individual and social determinants of marriage across their five study populations that both confirm some of the broad patterns of the standard Malthusian/Hajnal paradigm while demonstrating quite convincingly the wide variety of experience and nuance present within the European and Asian populations.

    Anne McCants

    Professor of History, MIT

  • In this highly original book, the authors outline a convincing and thorough theoretical model of marriage that takes into account factors at the individual, household, and community levels. Drawing upon unique source materials, they address the most pressing debates in the field. Similarity in Difference is a significant contribution.

    Hilde Bras

    Professor of Sociology of Consumption and Households, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

  • Original, dynamic, and important. Similarity in Difference is a significant milestone in the fields of historical demography and comparative family studies.

    Hiroshi Kito

    Professor of Economic History, Sophia University, Tokyo