Bride alone

3.5 How Big Is Your Dowry?

A History of Dowry and Brideprice

Listen to this episode learn:

  • why in many cultures a groom must pay a brideprice to the bride’s family
  • why in many others the bride’s family must pay a dowry to the groom
  • why in many modern societies we don’t do either, and
  • why in some modern cultures dowry prices just keep going up.

Selected Sources

Much of my information on the rationale behind brideprice and dowry comes from “The Economics of Dowry and Brideprice” by Siwan Anderson. The same author has a paper on “Why Dowry Payments Have Declined with Modernization in Europe But Are Rising in India.” This last is the one with the equations for calculating how much a groom is worth. Some of the customs regarding dowry payments came from A History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalom.

The Code of Hammurabi has plenty to say on the subject of dowries. I used this translation. Plato’s words of wisdom on the subject can be read here. (That was sarcasm.)

And here are a few other JSTOR articles I used:

  • Harrell, Stevan, and Sara A. Dickey. “Dowry Systems in Complex Societies.” Ethnology 24, no. 2 (1985): 105-20. Accessed June 3, 2021. doi:10.2307/3773553.
  • Testart, Alain. “Reconstructing Social and Cultural Evolution: The Case of Dowry in the Indo-European Area.” Current Anthropology 54, no. 1 (2013): 23-50. Accessed June 5, 2021. doi:10.1086/668679.
  • Wayne Ingalls. “Demography and Dowries: Perspectives on Female Infanticide in Classical Greece.” Phoenix 56, no. 3/4 (2002): 246-54. Accessed June 3, 2021. doi:10.2307/1192599.

Feature image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

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