Courtship, love, and marriage are seen today as very private affairs, and historians have generally concluded that after the late eighteenth century young people began to enjoy great autonomy in courtship and decisions about marriage. Peter Ward disagrees with this conclusion and argues that freedom in nineteenth-century English Canada was constrained by an intricate social, institutional, and familial framework which greatly influenced the behaviour of young couples both before and after marriage.
"Well written and easy to read ... The book makes a major contribution to Canadian historiography, since we have no other monograph dealing with courtship and marriage ... Ward is at his best in the sections of the book that deal with the ideas, sentiments, hopes, and practices of men and women of the middle and wealthier classes who have left records. The richest and most interesting sections of Courtship, Love, and Marriage are in the later chapters, which examine courtship, the rituals of romance, and the question of parental consent." Bettina Bradbury, Canadian Historical Review. "How the young were prodded and punished in British North America in the last century is set out by Peter Ward with admirable clarity and order." W.H. Graham, Globe and Mail. "This is a fine treatment of courtship ... The quotes from the lovers' correspondence are the best researched part of the book." Belinda Beaton, Toronto Star. "Because Peter Ward's timely study of a hitherto neglected subject in Canadian history has opened up this avenue for discussion and because his book was interesting, well crafted, and richly documented, it seems redundant at this point to remark that his is a good book." Patricia T. Rooke, Historical Studies in Education/Revue d'histoire de l'éducation. "This is a highly readable account of how attitudes toward love and marriage changed in the nineteenth century ... The book is a valuable contribution to a new and exciting area of Canadian social history." R. Douglas Francis, Canadian Book Review Annual. "The book is gracefully written. Ward has discovered a large number of courtship narratives, and presents them with an enthusiasm for the small detail." Joy Parr, American Historical Review.