Certain anthropological writers of the last half of the nineteenth century, as Bachofen (Das Mutterrecht, Stuttgart, 1861), Morgan (Ancient Society, London, 1877), Mc'Lennan (The Patriarchal Theory, London, 1885), Lang (Custom and Myth, London, 1885), and Lubbock (The Origin of Civilization and the Primitive Condition of Man, London, 1889), created and developed the theory that the original form of the family was one in which all the women of a group, horde, or tribe, belonged promiscuously to all the men of the community.Following the lead of Engels (The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, tr.Polyandry was likewise practised, but with considerably less frequency. On the other hand, divorce was in vogue among practically all peoples, and to a much greater extent than polygamy.According to Westermarck, monogamy was by far the most common form of marriage "among the ancient peoples of whom we have any direct knowledge " (op. The ease with which husband and wife could dissolve their union constitutes one of the greatest blots upon the civilization of classic Rome.Although divorce has obtained to a greater or less extent among the majority of peoples from the beginning until now, "there is abundant evidence that marriage has, upon the whole, become more durable in proportion as the human race has risen to higher degrees of cultivation" (Westermarck, op. In the family, as re-established by Christ, there is likewise no such thing as polygamy (see the references already given in this paragraph, and POLYGAMY).
Among the barbarians she very frequently became a wife through capture or purchase; among even the most advanced peoples the wife was generally her husband's property, his chattel, his labourer.
At no time has this theory obtained general acceptance, even among non-Christian writers, and it is absolutely rejected by some of the best authorities of today, e.g. The theory that the original form of the family was either polygamy or polyandry is even less worthy of credence or consideration.
Westermarck (The History of Human Marriage, London, 1901) and Letourneau (The Evolution of Marriage, tr. In reply to the arguments just stated, Westermarck and others point out that the hypothesis of primitive communism has by no means been proved, at least in its extreme form; that common property in goods does not necessarily lead to community of wives, since family and marriage relations are subject to other motives as well as to those of a purely economic character ; that the testimonies of classical historians in the matter are inconclusive, vague, and fragmentary, and refer to only a few instances; that the modern cases of promiscuity are isolated and exceptional, and may be attributed to degeneracy rather than to primitive survivals; that the practice of tracing kinship through the mother finds ample explanation in other facts besides the assumed uncertainty of paternity, and that it was never universal; that the abnormal sexual relations cited above are more obviously, as well as more satisfactorily, explained by other circumstances, religious, political, and social, than by the hypothesis of primitive promiscuity; and, finally, that evolution, which, superficially viewed, seems to support this hypothesis, is in reality against it, inasmuch as the unions between the male and the female of many of the higher species of animals exhibit a degree of stability and exclusiveness which bears some resemblance to that of the monogamous family. Westermarck does not hesitate to say: "The hypothesis of promiscuity, instead of belonging, as Professor Giraud-Teulon thinks, to the class of hypotheses which are scientifically permissible has no real foundation, and is essentially unscientific" (op. In the main, the verdict of scientific writers is in harmony with the Scriptural doctrine concerning the origin and the normal form of the family: "Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh" ( Genesis ). What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder" ( Matthew 19:6 ).
from the German, Chicago, 1902), many Socialist writers have adopted this theory as quite in harmony with their materialistic interpretation of history.
The chief considerations advanced in its favour are: the assumption that in primitive times all property was common, and that this condition naturally led to community of women ; certain historical statements by ancient writers like Strabo, Herodotus, and Pliny; the practice of promiscuity, at a comparatively late date, by some uncivilized peoples, such as the Indians of California and a few aboriginal tribes of India ; the system of tracing descent and kinship through the mother, which prevailed among some primitive people; and certain abnormal customs of ancient races, such as religious prostitution, the so-called jus primæ noctis , the lending of wives to visitors, cohabitation of the sexes before marriage, etc.