Historical Social Research

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Theo Engelen: Life Scripts and Life Realities: Women in Nineteenth-Century Nijmegen [Abstract]

On average, more than one fifth of the 19th century Nijmegen brides were pregnant at the date of marriage. In a society where extramarital sexuality was explicitly forbidden, and where the success of marriage restriction depended on following that rule, this finding is remarkable. Obviously, the cultural life script that allowed sexuality only within marriage was not a script all inhabitants lived up to. A remarkable secondary finding is that the protestant population had a much higher proportion of bridal pregnancies than the Roman Catholic population, although both the Protestant and the Roman Catholic clergy strongly opposed sexual activities, unless within marriage. Therefore, when bridal pregnancy among Protestant couples was twice as high as among Catholics, this points either at a stricter control by the Catholic clergy, or at more deviance among Protestant youngsters. In any case, when studying cultural life scripts on sexuality, it is always important to note that it can be countered by human agency.

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