This article, using information from over one thosand marriage contracts from mid-sixteenth-century Nîmes, examines marriage choice in early modern France. It concludes that among the poorer half of the population, children largely chose their own spouses. Legal requirements for consent were frequently ignored, and parents were frequently dead. Many poor young people immigrated to Nîmes from the countryside, and met their spouses in town. They also did not have to rely on their parents for dowries, since young women from poor backgrounds frequently used savings from their wages for the purpose. A third of all marriage contracts also specified no particular sum or significant asset as a dowry. The article concludes with an extended comparison to other French cities, which suggests considerable dowry inflation in early modern France. This may have led to increasing parental control by the end of the old regime.
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