The family in early modern period

  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 22-05-18 16:19
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  • The family in early modern period (according to Bernard Capp)
    • Early modern family displays both parallels with and significant differences from family today
      • Bennett and Froide
        • Not everyone married
          • in Europe, 20% of women remained single throughout their lives, probably similar for men
    • Those who didn't marry
      • For some it was a matter of choice
      • In Catholic countries
        • a religious vocation might lead men into priesthood or a monastery
        • women might enter a convent
          • either from choice or because their families were unable to raise a dowry to secure a husband
      • For others, poverty, physical disability or ravages of illness left them unable to find a partner
      • In Germany, many craftsmen remained bachelor journeymen, living in male hostels, lacking the resources to set up their own shops or marry
      • Unmarried women might spend a lifetime in domestic service, with others working 'at their own hands' to earn a living by spinning, knitting, laundering or similar occupations
    • Size of family according to Flandrin
      • In most of Northern Europe
        • Nuclear family was the norm
          • comprising a married couple and children
          • Average size 4 to 6
      • In Mediterranean
        • Common to find larger families than in N Europe
      • Extended or multiple families
        • Extended or multiple families contained more than two generations and/or brothers and sisters of main householder
    • In Italy, teenage bride might marry much older man and begin married life living in his parents' home, in a very subordinate position
    • Families containing people not biologically related to householders
      • Farmers might have live-in farm servants
      • Many modest urban households contained at least one maidservant, often one or two apprentices and perhaps an older journeyman
      • Reasons for this:
        • Firstly
          • home was frequently also work-place
          • Household contained employees as well as parents and children
        • Secondly
          • Domestic chores such as washing and cleaning were arduous and time-consuming
            • help essential, especially if wife had children to care for and was helping with her husband's farm or trade (or supplementing their income through part-time work)
        • Thirdly
          • Hiring a young maidservant made good economic sense, for domestic labour was cheap
            • An English maidservant in 1600 might expect no more than £2 a year, plus board and lodging
          • In poorest families, even children as young as five or six were pressed into assisting with simple tasks that helped to boost the family income
            • By early teens, poor children might be sent out as live-in servants, which guaranteed them food and shelter and created space in a cramped cottage for the younger siblings
          • Poor households were generally small; only well-to-do, able to keep their children at home and employ servants, presided over large households
    • Role of husband and wife in marriage
      • Generally accepted husband and wife should play different but complementary roles within marriage
      • husband's role
        • provide for and govern household
      • wife's role
        • Managed  home and took primary charge of young children
      • Couple straying too far from set pattern would face strong disapproval and/or ridicule
    • Marriage in landed elites
      • Dynastic and financial concerns outweighed interests and wishes of individual
      • Marriage formation was usually a family matter, arranged by parents who bargained hard over dowry (bride's contribution) and jointure (what she would receive, if left a widow)
      • Young couple, especially the bride, often had little choice over the arrangement
    • Lower levels of society and marriage
      • Merchants
        • Would often wait years until his business was securely established and then choose a much younger bride, who would be guided by her parents
      • Far greater freedom of choice in lower levels of society, where there was little property at stake
      • Bride and groom often in late-20s
        • Might well have left family home over ten years earlier by the time they wed
          • reduced paternal control
    • Marriage and the poor
      • usually looked for parental approval and support
      • Took years for young folk on low wages to accumulate modest savings needed to set up a home, and material help from parents or employers (or both) was often essential to give their marriage a secure foundation
    • Birth-rate, life-expectancy and age
      • No effective means of birth-control
      • fertile women often became pregnant every two or three years
      • High birth-rate did not lead to large families
        • Many children died in infancy, with over a quarter dying before the age of 10
      • Very rare, both husband and wife survive into old age
      • Repeated pregnancies inevitably threatened a woman's life and health
      • Male mortality surprisingly higher than woman's
        • Dangerous occupations, e.g. mining or seafaring, almost guaranteed an early death
      • Strenuous farm labour took heavy toll, and plague and other diseases swept away thousands while still young
      • Widowers (and to lesser extent widows) often remarried quickly, for practically reasons
        • It usually took two adults to earn an adequate income, run a home and look after children
      • If you got to middle age
        • Failing strength resulted in lower wages
      • Old age
        • spelt poverty, especially for widows living alone
        • No retirement age
          • Norwich Consensus of the Poor (1570) records many men and women in their 70s and 80s still working to earn a few pence
      • Lawrence Stone argued
        • married couples felt little affection or warmth for each other or their children
          • no longer supported
      • Philippe Aries
        • argues childhood was not recognised
          • no longer supported
      • Houlbrooke
        • apart from royal or aristocratic marriages arranged for political and dynastic reasons, most couples cherished ideal of relationship based on affection, trust and partnership
          • reflected in popular songs and ballads and reinforced by fact husbands and wives usually depended on one another for economic survival, making cooperation a necessity
      • Many couples lived unhappily
        • With poverty and drink breeding bitterness and domestic violence
        • one partner, usually man, simply deserted and some married again, bigamouly
        • We can find many letters and diaries that record deep love and affection between couples, pride in their children's progress, and devastating grief when a child died

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