The Cambridge Festival of Ideas opens in the city on October 15 and looks at the state of marriage.

During the two-week festival, which features more than 200 events, three pivotal events explore marriage: whether it should exist, its effect on our health, and a look back at some of the dramatic changes to the institution in the past.

Many countries have recently expanded their definition of marriage to allow marriage between same-sex couples: a welcome move towards equality, but does this go far enough? Philosopher, Clare Chambers, argues for a more extreme position during her talk against marriage on October 15: that the state should not recognise marriage at all. State recognition of marriage, she argues, is a violation of both equality and liberty - no matter how marriage is redefined. The event is centred on her recent book Against Marriage: An Egalitarian Defence of the Marriage-Free State.

"I do not propose that marriage should be illegal or that it is wrong to be married. People should remain free to engage in private religious or secular ceremonies of marriage," she said.

"Committed monogamous coupledom is a valuable way of life for many people. But it is not a uniquely or universally valuable way of life, and being married should not be a legally-significant status. In its place, there should be a novel system of regulation based on relationship practices rather than relationship status, designed to protect the vulnerable and secure equality while also respecting individual choices."

Other speakers include: Dr Mary Harlow, from the University of Leicester, who will speak about the relationship between marriage and health in ancient Rome.

Dr Boyd Brogan, from the University of York, will discuss his recent research and examine all the cultural and religious reasons people in the 16th and 17th centuries might promote marriage, such as the clear health benefits. Social psychologist, Dr Lisa Marie Warner from the Medical School Berlin, will explore social exchange processes and health over life-span and in particular health behaviour change theories.

The formation of marriage was revolutionised in the late 12th century when it took on the shape as we know it now: a young couple decide to marry in a ceremony that normally takes place in a church in the presence of a priest. This constituted what some thought was an extreme change from the more domestic arrangements at home when parents arranged marriages.

Bookings for events opens on September 24 and can be made by calling: 01223 766766 or online: www.festivalofideas.cam.ac.uk.