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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Persuasive and intelligently written, a fascinating book, 7 Oct 2004
This review is from: Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (Vintage) (Paperback)
Boswell's 'Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe' is a fastidiously researched and thoroughly persuasive book highlighting the existence of homosexual unions (aka marriages) in medieval times, whilst remaining highly readable and accessible to those who can't be bothered wading through pages and pages of unintelligible dry text. He unearths some interesting facts during the course of the book - for instance the Roman Catholic church happily 'married' gay men before the thirteenth century - somewhat at odds with their take on such matters today! It does ignore lesbian relationships but not out of choice - there is simply next to nothing written on women in general around medieval times, such was their place in society! It really is an interesting book, and I found it to be invaluable whilst writing my dissertation on the debate on gay marriage. Highly recommended not just for research purposes, but also for general non-fiction reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great work!, 9 Jan 2010
This review is from: Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (Vintage) (Paperback)
I'm really interested in History, although I have to admit that it's just a hobby. I'm not a professional in that matter. But medieval ages always have been the most interesting part of the History in my case, being the most important the relationship between Church and regular people. That was a very difficult period for people whose lifestyles were different from those expected by Christian laws. Of course, there where what modern writers call gay people, people who had to life sometimes hidden and some places killed, not as different as nowadays. This book, as well as former book of late John Boswell "Christianity, social tolerance, and Homosexuality", had give to me other vision of this matter, presenting a full information of same-sex marriages, documented and well tolerated, even in those Dark Ages. I highly recommend this book for those who want to know more about human relationship, no matter what.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not always opposites attract, 29 Dec 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (Vintage) (Paperback)
Friends of mine who had been familiar with Boswell's first book, 'Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality', from its initial publication in 1980 waited impatiently for the follow-up volume. In the end, it took fourteen years to produce, and sadly, did not live up the expectations that had been given it.
Firstly, it did not in fact reveal (if such places exist, the not-always-so-hidden charge behind the disappointment) communities that had continued the practice of tolerance to same-sex couples through the last millenium within the structures of Christendom.
For part of the book he covers old ground, talking about the milieu of the Greco-Roman world, and talks about the development of the idea of marriage and liturgical practices for that. He then proceeds to give examples of liturgies which, Boswell claims, are proof that the church did recognise and bless same-sex unions. This claim is still debated, as there is no blantant 'I now pronounce you husband and husband (or wife and wife)' kinds of statements or liturgies here, but rather testimony to friendship, companionship, communal support, of a sort that is ambiguous.
While this book is important for liturgical forms and narrative discussion (although the narratives can be reinterpreted as something different from Boswell's), it failed to deliver the knock-out punch readers of the first book had been waiting for, i.e., conclusive proof the church was up to no good. Boswell does make some points worthy of attention in the debate, such as, 'The extent of early Christian hostility to same-sex eroticism has been exaggerated by modern Christians, who tend to overlook comparable Christian strictures against divorce or other common aspects of modern life also condemned by the early church, while focusing their energy and moral outrage on this particular issue.'
Boswell is interesting but far from satisfying on either side of the debate. So, after providing us with some historical framework, we must move on to more explicitly theological discussions. Boswell's contribution is an important one, in that it shows that this has been an issue with varying degrees of acceptance and controversy throughout the life of the church, and the history of society in general. It does not, however, settle anything, or satisfy either side -- it is rather more grist for the mill for both sides. An important book, but not definitive by any means.
Unfortunately, Boswell died not long after the publication of this volume, and so further clarifications, or any unpublished research of sensitive nature, will not be forthcoming.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Persuasive and intelligently written, a fascinating book, 7 Oct 2004
Boswell's 'Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe' is a fastidiously researched and thoroughly persuasive book highlighting the existence of homosexual unions (aka marriages) in medieval times, whilst remaining highly readable and accessible to those who can't be bothered wading through pages and pages of unintelligible dry text. He unearths some interesting facts during the course of the book - for instance the Roman Catholic church happily 'married' gay men before the thirteenth century - somewhat at odds with their take on such matters today! It does ignore lesbian relationships but not out of choice - there is simply next to nothing written on women in general around medieval times, such was their place in society! It really is an interesting book, and I found it to be invaluable whilst writing my dissertation on the debate on gay marriage. Highly recommended not just for research purposes, but also for general non-fiction reading.
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Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (Vintage)
Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (Vintage) by John Boswell (Paperback - 30 Jun 1995)
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