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Family Life Notes

History Notes > General History X: Europe 1715-99 Notes

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Family Life Tutorial
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Contents

The Prospect Before Her: A History of Women in Western Europe (Volume One:
1500--1800) -- O. Hufton

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A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to
Modern Times -- C. Heywood

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Eighteenth Century Europe 1700--1789 -- J. Black
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Europe in the Eighteenth Century 1713--1783 -- M. S. Anderson
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Introduction -- E. Foyster and J. Marten
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Family Relationships -- J. Bailey
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Community -- A. Levene
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Economy -- D. Simonton
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Education -- V. K. Tikoff
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Faith and Religion -- A. P. Coudert
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Health and Science -- M. Lindemann
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Infantilization, civilisation and child abuse -- W. Koops
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The New World of Children in Eighteenth--Century England -- J. H. Plumb
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Marriage and the Family in Eighteenth--Century France -- J. F. Traer
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Approaches to the history of the western family 1500--1914 -- M. Anderson
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Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500 -- H. Cunningham
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The Eighteenth--Century Child -- A. O'Malley
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Children in History: Concepts of Nature and Society -- L. Jordanova

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Family Life Tutorial

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Gender change -- mainly at the end of the period
Caveats -- time period, class, gender, wealth and geography

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Lower class women -- stopped being co--dependents
~ Of less value in cottage industry -- not contributing to the wage economy
~ Excluded from public sphere activities
It was not until the 19th century that separate spheres truly emerged

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Demography, economy and Enlightenment
Locke -- pushed for scientific way of looking at knowledge
~ Not from revelation but from experience and senses
~ Remains religious -- women are not equal
~ Shame and praise for children
Rousseau -- state of nature => men are naturally good
~ Are not tainted by vice
~ Yet not moral beings => need to read The Social Contract

~ Will eventually need society
Hobbes -- the nature of man is violent => needs society and civilisation
~ More used by Christians -- original sin
Women are identified as inculcating religion
~ Different rather than sinful
~ More suited to the domestic sphere
Middle classes -- traditional education was to send girls to nunneries
~ North France -- mixed elementary schools for gentry and upper classes => dates
back to the 16th century
No real formal large scale educational systems
Early 19th century push for primary education
French Revolution -- Condorcet established an education system
~ Change society -- educate children to be good republicans

~ Failure of the Revolution -- society was not ready for it
Yet also a push for primary education in England from the 1810s
Divorce laws are a major achievement in the French revolution
~ Abolished in Thermidor
Abolished slavery => then forgotten as time went on
March on Versailles -- major moment for women
Women retained influence in the salon
Republicanism in general v. political form
~ Could have republican monarchy -- idea of virtuous citizens
Reformers -- issue of the effeminacy of society
Republicanism is very much an 18th century concept

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18th century -- first official feminists
~ Wollstonecraft -- Vindication of the Rights of Women

~ Difference between men and women is education
~ Condorcet and Bentham
Aim of turning education into a more scientific process
~ Displacement of women in the home by men

Primogeniture -- democratic perspective => not right to have privilege from birth
~ Equality of children

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Mme de Stael is a hugely successful novelist
Locke recommends that children read Roman history

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The Prospect Before Her: A History of Women in Western Europe (Volume One:
1500--1800) -- O. Hufton
(London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995)
pp. 134--250

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On Being a Wife
! Marriage -- public ceremony proclaiming the legitimacy of any future offspring

~ Indicated where they belonged in the social order
! Mixture of sacred and celebratory -- tradition of inebriation of the groom
! Passive role of bride in the wedding -- led by friends of the groom to the church, given
away by father and joined in matrimony

~ Yet positive participation in biddings, brideswains and other rituals
Outside the dowry system in countries of Roman law, there was little dignity for women
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~ At the mercy of families
! North--western Europe -- single household

~ Less common in most of Mediterranean Europe
Strong patriarchal model was applied differently in different households
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Partnership element in marriage -- wife's role and the meaning of the complementarity
praised in the good conduct literature
Women worked within the patronage system for their husbands and children
Memoirs of the Duc de Saint--Simon
~ Highly informative about the role of women at Versailles
~ Was convinced that a wife could very considerably enhance the career of her
husband
~ Madame Voysin -- virtue, discretion and amiability => approbation of the king's
wife

~ Voysin became a conseiller d'etat due to his wife's friendship with Madame

de Maintenon
~ Princesse de Soubise -- acquired many possessions by being mistress to the king
=> Saint--Simon sees her as dedicated to the interests of her house
Court circles -- fashionable to affect a certain indifference towards one's spouse
~ Essential part of civilised behaviour
Nobility distinguished between long--term affection, esteem and family interest and
short--term passion at court
King's conduct led the tone -- king's mistresses
~ At the core of political intrigue and gave a kind of sanction to aristocratic laxity
Friendship was not an easy thing to find -- few royal mistresses achieved the ascendancy
of de Pompadour in Louis XV's court
Could defend estates militarily
'As in the French religious wars, the Fronde and the Thirty Years War, where individual
aristocratic women could be forced into similar roles, these conflicts saw no long--term
change in the position of women' (p. 148)

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French Revolution -- wives were in many instances active in preserving the patrimony
from sequestration
~ Initiated divorce proceedings and went on to claim their stake in the property as
innocent victims of their husband's perfidy in abandoning them and betraying the
French state

~ Restoration -- old French nobility still controlled much land => women were

in a large part responsible

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18th century -- family had more space

~ Servants' quarters were more clearly delineated
! Women ran the household
! Middle class marriage demonstrated the complemantarity of the couple in a similar way

~ Man's role was making money and conducting business

~ Woman's went far beyond saving and careful household management
bookkeeping side of many businesses was very often the work of the wife
! Some manufacturers' wives received the consignments from outworkers
! Most of the evidence of such businesswomen is drawn from north--western Europe

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Status of the clergyman's wife was conspicuously changed -- by 1700 she was well on the
way to becoming the kind of wife we recognise in the diaries of the 18th century
~ Became a very distinct personage
Parson's wife -- role to serve as a model wife in the community e.g. visit sick and poor
~ Offer hospitality
Apparent harmony in domestic relations mattered -- to be quiet and content was how
society judged a successful marriage
Majority of Europeans -- most usual designation of a married women was that of
'farmer's wife' => covered a vast social spectrum
Buoyant agricultural prices => new consumer goods
~ 'Critics posited a new idleness in this figure as the 18th century wore on and a
tendency to distance herself from the business of the farmyard' (p. 152)
Farmer's wife -- notion of particular kinds of work recognised as essential to the efficient
running of a farm => reluctance to grant a lease to the unmarried
Marital grievance if a wife failed to give her full support
Court of Neckarhausen, Germany in the 18th century -- defined inadequate wives by their
failure to lead the horse pulling the plough or by their spending time which should have
been spent on the couple's own land in helping relatives
~ Idleness meant a failure to perform essential services
Farmer's wife -- tended livestock, grew vegetables, did dairy work, kept bees, preserved
and pickled, helped prepare goods for sale and perhaps took them to market, lent a
hand at harvest and during haymaking and exploited gleaning rights or the use of
commons where such existed
Division of labour with women giving much financial input
Introduction of heavier tools for haymaking and threshing held down the demand for
women's labour towards the end of the 18th century
In better times, too, women were conspicuously absent

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Poverty => women could be forced into the labour force or to take on extra textile work
~ Farmer could take over wife's roles in the household
Dependence upon an income from migration meant that the farmer's wife was for
many months the farmer -- assumed total responsibility for running the holding in the
absence of her husband
Traveller Arthur Young visited the Auvergne in the late 1780s -- marvelled at the fact that
he only saw women doing the farm work and assumed the men were loafing at home
Other travellers commented on the industriousness of women -- Le Grand D'Aussy
blamed male sloth for the fact that the women were seen first and last in the fields
Absent husband => women tended to be very pious -- relied on sociability in church and
comfort of prayer
~ These women were renowned for industry and virtue while the men were held to
be quarrelsome and dishonest
Wet--nursing -- fostering city children could be a common part of the family income of
less substantial farming families
Married women's work in the towns has largely been described by reference to the
guilds
~ Very much weakened by 1700
Omnipresence of women as market traders
'The consequences of a system which insisted that women should work but not have a
professional or career mentality produced then, as it still does, innumerable victims
when the ideal family model crumbled' (p. 172)
'Their identity was constructed not on professional status, but on wifehood and
motherhood and both entailed work' (p. 172)

Motherhood
! Christian marriage presupposed offspring

~ Also the perpetuation of property
Married women were defined as vessels for the reproduction of species -- not having
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children carried with it connotations of failure and inadequacy => to be barren was a
judgement of God

~ Blame for failure was almost always on the woman
Rites and rituals of fertility -- especially associated with the church and saints
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~ Pilgrimages

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Would mother and child survive the birth?
How many times would the wife be pregnant and how many pregnancies would
produce living issue?
Advanced age at marriage characteristic of early modern society north of the Loire
obviously curtailed family size by limiting the reproductive period
Average number of children for a French rural family was 4--5
Aristocracy and middle classes who married younger generally had much larger families
~ Although by the 18th century the French aristocracy were limiting the number of
births
Noble women used wet--nurses -- more likely to spend much of their married life
pregnant and so were more exposed to death in childbed

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Working women -- many factors determined reproduction
~ Seasonal migration or mortality crises
'However, one safe generalisation is that unless they were part of a family economy
where the presence of a young child on the premises was detrimental to production -- as
in the case of the silk workers at Lyons, who used wet--nurses and so were rapidly re--
impregnated -- working women only spent a relatively small part of their married lives
pregnant though they might have a 'sucking child'' (p. 177)
First pregnancy -- a further 2 years could elapse before another baby was born
Sexual taboos e.g. intercourse curdling milk
Upper classes increasingly enjoyed the advantages of separate bedchambers and the
availability of a paid mistress
Some knowledge of contraceptive practices
~ Did not alter overall birthrates and were generally used to stop having too many
children rather than any at all
Pregnant woman had to watch her conduct
French proverb -- 'a pregnant woman has one foot in the grave'
Fear of the birth of an abnormal child
Mental state of the mother could affect the foetus
~ Recommended to spend as much of their pregnancy as possible in the home and
to focus their attention on objects worthy of contemplation
Number of theories about midwives -- 'Indeed, the midwife has been central to the
thesis of a serial decline in the position of women over the period since, it is alleged,
women progressively had to cede ground to the male midwife and so were 'pushed out'
of the oldest profession available to them' (p. 183)
Germany, Holland and England -- midwives licensed by the municipalities
Use of a male midwife claiming superior scientific expertise grew among those who
could afford his services in the second half of the 18th century
~ Louis XIV's hired a male midwife to deliver Madame de la Valliere
Church disapproved of the intrusion of men into the birthing process
Were not indifferent to the death of infants
Children were referred to as comforts and blessings

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Increasing social polarisation in the 18th century
Demand for cheap wet--nursing grew with the increase of foundlings and the
development of commercial city life
! Issue of children sleeping in mother's bed -- doctors and theologians railed against this
! There were few professional groups more misogynistic than doctors

~ Way to produce healthy citizens was through austerity and exposure to the
elements -- women 'cockered' their children
! John Locke wrote on child care => unhealthy advice

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Philippe Aries -- 18th century was the 'century of the child'
Lawrence Stone and the historians of affective individualism have argued that before
the 18th century there was much indifference to children by parents -- due to a stoical
acceptance of death and a pessimistic view of their chances of survival
'Others, notably Elizabeth Badinter, have gone further and insisted that 'mothering' is
an invention of capitalism and that the wet--nursing sought by the rich for their offspring

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