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The main texts on UK law are the two reports of the Law

Commission, namely “Family Law Report on Polygamous

Marriages” (1971) No. 42: and “Law Commission & Scottish Law

Commission, Private International Law. Polygamous Marriages.

Capacity to contract a polygamous marriage and related issues”

(1985) (Law Com. No. 146) (Scot. Law Com. No. 96), both

available from Her Majesties Stationery Office.

For legal academics and practitioners there is David Pearl’s “A

textbook on Muslim Law” (1979) London: Croon Holn and his

“Family Law and the immigrant communities” (1986) Bristol:

Family Law, although as commented here, the Human Rights Act

may render much of this material dated.

Sebastian Poulter was prolific in this area, although the need

for repetition means that you don’t have to get all these texts to

read all his points. The texts in question are “Hyde v. Hyde–A

reappraisal”, (1976) 25 ICLQ 475; “English Law and Ethnic

Minority Customs” (1986) London: Butterworths; “Ethnic

Minority Customs, English Law and Human Rights”, (1987) 36

ICLQ 589; “African Customs in an English Setting”; Journal of

African Law; 31 [1988] 207; “A Separate System of Personal Law

for British Muslims?” in Mallat, C and Connors, J (eds.) Islamic

Family Law (1990) London: Graham and Trotman; and “Ethnicity,

Law and Human Rights: The English Experience” (1998) Oxford:


Glanville Williams is worth reading, if only as a major figure

in the development of English Law. See his “Language and the

Law” (1945) 61 LQR 71 at 76-8; “Bigamy and the Third

Marriage”, (1950) 13 MLR 417 and “Venue and the ambit of

Criminal Law”; (1965) 81 LQR 395 at 402-4.

For a good and humorous introduction to economics in general

try David Friedman’s “Hidden Order”, (1996) New York:

HarperBusiness, which mentions polygamy, but for more detail

try “The Economics of Love and Marriage”, in his “Price Theory:

An Intermediate Text” (1990) South-Western; which is available,

for free, online.

For a well-researched and invaluable examination of examples

of polygamy and its defense within Christendom see John

Cairncross’s “After Polygamy Was Made a Sin. The Social History

of Christian Polygamy” (1974) London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

This will lead you to Martin Madan’s “Thelyphthora” (1780) London:

J Dodsley, a spirited defence of the compatibility of polygamy

and Christianity, as is John Milton’s “De Doctrina Christiana”

(1825). This last work was unpublished during Milton’s lifetime

but translated almost 150 years later on the orders of King William

IV by his librarian, Charles Sumner, and published by the

Cambridge University Press as “A Treatise on Christian Doctrine”.

The text is missing from many editions of Milton’s Complete Works,

but the parts pertaining to polygamy are available online at http:/


Moving beyond Christian to secular history you could try Foster

B, Foster M & Hadady L, “Three in Love: Ménages a trois from

ancient to modern times” (1997) San Francisco; Harper, although

this talks more of affairs than marriages, and for a widely respected

review of the Mormon experience you could do a lot worse than

Richard Van Wagoner’s “Mormon Polygamy, A History”

(1989)Utah: Signature Books.