The origins of the European marriage pattern at the turn of the Middle Ages and the early modern era from the perspective of the history of Poland
Since the publication of John Hajnal’s articles, the European marriage pattern not only has become an important issue in demographic studies, but has also been tackled from the point of view of economic history, as well as history of law or culture. All scholars, including the author of the concept, have focused largely on establishing the characteristics of the model, its geographical spread as well as various consequences; only recently have there been works, by Michael Mitterauer and two scholars from Holland, Jan Luiten van Zanden and Tine de Moor, trying to explain the origins of the phenomenon. The aim of the present article is to look at the interpretations presented in their publications from the point of view of social-economic transformations taking place in Poland in the late Middle Ages and at the beginning of the modern era, using the experiences of Polish historiography, unknown to the authors of the theories in question.
The author of the article points to elements occurring in Poland conducive to the emergence of the European marriage pattern, elements such as: emphasis of the Catholic Church on the consent of the future spouses as the basis of marriage, varied inheritance system which very often guaranteed women full rights to inherit the property after the death of their parents, development of the labour market as well as early appearance in agricultural economy of the hide system. However, they did not affect the fact that women got married at a later age in Poland, but did affect the predominance of the nuclear family in Polish society. Polish research points to various causes of the emergence of the individual traits of the European family in Poland. According to van Zanden’s and de Moor’s hypothesis, getting married at an older age applied mainly to hired workers, and their share in Polish society was much lower than in Western and Northern Europe, increasing only in the 19th and 20th centuries. On the other hand, the predominance of the nuclear family was associated with the hide system, which appeared in Poland alongside colonization under German law as early as in the 13th century, spreading across the country by the end of the 16th century.