1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Polyandry

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POLYANDRY (Gr. πολύς, many, and ἀνήρ, man), the system of marriage between one woman and several men, who are her husbands exclusively (see Family). The custom locally legalizing the marriage of one woman to more than one husband at a time has been variously accounted for as the result of poverty and of life in infertile lands, where it was essential to check population as the consequence of female infanticide, or, in the opinion of J. F. McLennan and L. H. Morgan, as a natural phase through which human progress has necessarily passed. Polyandry is to be carefully differentiated from communal marriage, where the woman is the property of any and every member of the tribe. Two distinct kinds of polyandry are practised: one, often called Nair, in which, as among the Nairs of India, the husbands are not related to each other; and the second, the Tibetan or fraternal polyandry, in which the woman is married to all the brothers of one family. Polyandry is practised by the tribes of Tibet, Kashmir and the Himalayan regions, by the Todas, Koorgs, Nairs and other peoples of India, in Ceylon, New Zealand, by some of the Australian aborigines, in parts of Africa, in the Aleutian archipelago, among the Koryaks and on the Orinoco.

See McLennan’s Primitive Marriage (London, 1886); Studies in Ancient History (London, 1886); “The Levirate and Polyandry,” in The Fortnightly Review, new series, vol. xxi. (London, 1877); L. H. Morgan, System of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family (Washington, 1869); Lord Avebury, Origin of Civilization; E. Westermarck, History of Human Marriage.