AuthorCraig Jones
For hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of years, human society was
almost universal ly polygamous. at is, in any given community, at least
some men could be expected to have several w ives simultaneously.
We will never know who original ly came up with the idea of monog-
amous marriage. I’m not referring here to the notion that a particular man
should have only one wife most marriages are monogamous even in
polygamous societies. I’m speaking of monogamy as the idea that no man
should be allowed to have more than one wife, and the further innovation
that the community should have a role in ensuring that is so, through the
imposition of rules, norms, mores, and, eventually, laws. Monogamy in
this sense probably wasn’t the result of a single philosophical epiphany,
and it certainly did not result from theistic or prophetic revelation, but
it does appear to have developed rather quickly and, in terms of human
society, rather recently. e term “revolutionary” is apt as a description
of this “socially imposed universal monogamy” (as one expert witness
would later term it) whereby king and subject alike were lim ited to a single
reproductive partner, at least in theory.
Monogamy appears to have begun in the early democracies in ancient
Greece and spread through Rome’s military and, l ater, religious dominance
of Europe. It gathered momentum so that, although the majority of soci-
eties throughout history have been polygamous, this number is shrinking
today to the point where societies with state-endorsed polygamy number
only a handful. A round the world, even nations where the right of a man
to have multiple wives has the deepest cultural and religious roots seem
to be turning ocia l backs on the practice; and if there is an international
legal trend, it is one of, if not criminal izing, then at least of delegitimizing
and discouraging polygamy. So it is curious that in the West, and most
particula rly in Canada and the United States, many have been urging that
the laws should move in the opposite direction: these aspiring reformers
suggest that, in the rights-based, diversity-respecting nations of the

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