In the twentieth century, dating was sometimes seen as a precursor to marriage but it could also be considered as an end-in-itself, that is, an informal social activity akin to friendship.
It generally happened in that portion of a person's life before the age of marriage, enabled dates to be arranged without face-to-face contact.
Women eventually won the right to vote in many countries and own property and receive equal treatment by the law, and these changes had profound impacts on the relationships between men and women. In many societies, individuals could decide—on their own—whether they should marry, whom they should marry, and when they should marry.
A few centuries ago, dating was sometimes described as a "courtship ritual where young women entertained gentleman callers, usually in the home, under the watchful eye of a chaperone," but increasingly, in many Western countries, it became a self-initiated activity with two young people going out as a couple in public together.
From the standpoint of anthropology and sociology, dating is linked with other institutions such as marriage and the family which have also been changing rapidly and which have been subject to many forces, including advances in technology and medicine.
Interviews with the couples, family members, and current and former Amish elders offer an inside look at an old world ceremony.
Nat Geo has shared a short clip of the show (I’ve posted it below), about Amish dating during “Rumspringa“. One is the Amish “elder’s” appearance for an on-camera interview (“elder” is the term National Geographic uses; I’m assuming they mean bishop or member of the ministry). In the clip, Keim speaks frankly about the consequences of premarital sex from a church standpoint, as his wife looks on.
These people will have dates on a regular basis, and they may or may not be having sexual relations.
This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement.