Dating in History

What did dating look like in the past?

Jump with us into history to discover how the concept of dating has changed over the past decades.

The world of dating as we have never seen it before

The word date was accidentally coined by the Chicago Record columnist, George Ade. In one of his columns about the working living class, he wrote about a clerk who was worried because his girlfriend was losing interest in him and seeing other men who were "fillin' all [his] dates". On the other hand, the idea of dating as we know it is relatively new. In fact, the first computer matchmaking service - called 'Operation Match' - was founded by two Harvard students in 1965 and the first online dating website - - was founded in 1995. 

In the past there was not such thing as going out on a date or even hookups. At the beginning of 1900s, courtship was an unemotional, private affair where young women would meet several men with their parents present. At that time, marrying someone for love was a luxury only a few had. Parents were in charge of selecting the most suitable suitors - usually rich men with a high social status. Couple activities usually took place in the household or at social events but only when the woman made the engagement official. If one or more gentlemen - the callers - were interested in a young woman, they had to follow a proper protocol that consisted in introducing themselves to the family in their own house and hoping to be invited back and call upon the daughter.

How the

Things changed in the roaring '20s, when couples finally began to go out together in public, unsupervised. This is when courtship turn into the first forms of dating. The difference between the two was freedom. In fact, young men and women started to meet at speakeasies to drink and dance and closed-body cars allowed couples to sneak out from boring chaperoned events. During this period women started exploring sexual boundaries and 'playing the field' by dating multiple people at once. The old generation felt like there was not morality anymore. Jodi O'Brien wrote in her Encyclopedia of Gender and Society that "Different institutions were becoming more prominent in the lives of young men and women, such as school, college, and workplaces, which exposed them to a large pool of potential dating partners. As a result, the purpose of dating was primarily to have fun, not to find a marriage partner. However, couples would form after several dates if they were interested in having more exclusive relationships."

Looking Forward to Another Roaring 20's? | Springwater Wealth Management


Similarities between past and present

The aim of this project is to understand what does the future hold for online dating once the UK Government will ease the the current restrictions. Although there are obvious differences between past and present, with technology and online dating being a huge factor, it is worth noting that there are similarities too, mainly related to financial instability and restrictions on normal life that allow us to draw comparisons.

The end of the First World War in 1918 was followed by the catastrophic spread of the Spanish flu. Records show that 500 million people were infected and 50-100 million people died. The virus killed more people than the deadliest war humanity had hitherto experienced, but it did not reduce humanity’s determination to socialise. Throughout history, humanity has experienced pestilence. Whilst acknowledging these bouts of infectious disease have had all kinds of long-lasting consequences, they never stopped people from seeking out one another’s company. This is what is happening now. That is why, Dr. Nicholas Christakis, social epidemiologist and professor at Yale, predicts there will be a second 'roaring '20s'. He said that “during epidemics you get increases in religiosity, people become more abstentious, they save money, they get risk averse and we’re seeing all of that now just as we have for hundreds of years during epidemics”.

The roaring '20s came to an abrupt end following the Wall Street crash. The great Depression saw great financial uncertainty. The marriage rate declined during the hardship of the Great Depression. Marriage rates stayed low during years of the war, and then soared in 1945 following the end of the war, leading to the “baby boom” which reshaped society.

The end of WWII saw the beginning of many beautiful love stories for thousands of US couples who has deferred their marriage throughout the conflict. History influenced the couples' decision to wed.

U.S. Marriage Rates Hit New Recorded Low - U.S. Marriage Rates Hit New  Recorded Low - United States Joint Economic Committee

More data...

Economic instability appears to have a huge impact on life choices made by people. In the UK, the most recent unemployment rate for October to December 2020 was 5.1% according to Office of National Statistics. This is the highest figure for 5 years, and means that 1.74 million people were unemployed. In the midst of the Great Depression, the American birthrate fell to its lowest point yet, to just 18.4 live births per thousand population due to the overwhelming sense of economic instability. Post World War II, however, had a profound effect on the American birth rate, which skyrocketed. A combination of factors produced this baby boom. Soldiers returning home from the war and wished to settle down into family life with their sweethearts, and GI Bill benefits promised the decent pay, access to good jobs, and affordable housing that made raising a family possible. After more than fifteen years of economic uncertainty, things were finally looking up in the United States, and everyone was determined to make the most of it. 20% more babies were born in 1946 than in 1945. By 1947, the number of live births per thousand population jumped to 26.6. Economic instability can be concluded as the reason for marriage and birth rates plummeting during both the Great Depression and World War II. High fertility rates closely correlate with a period of unprecedented economic prosperity, as well as optimism that the prosperity would last.

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