Marriage in Crisis: The Individual and the State in Belle Epoque France
Gilkey, Emily, 1984-
This thesis offers an analysis of the competing interests of the state and the individual in Belle Epoque France as manifested in a crisis of marriage. I argue that traditional institutions that favored social stability were incompatible with a modern understanding of individual rights. My argument is centered on three issues: the abolition of the dowry, the legalization of divorce and the legitimization of free union. Conservatives considered familial stability to be a vital element of national security, thereby justifying extensive state interference in marriage practices. Liberals contended that the primary function of government was to guarantee individuals maximal freedom. These competing interests produced a climate of crisis that pitted two irreconcilable visions of marriage against one another.