«A Thesis Submitted for the Degree of PhD at the University of Warwick This thesis is made available online and is ...»
Such pictures have been almost completely neglected in the historiography of the family, an historiography that is characterised by conflicting methodologies and theses. As we shall see, developmental models that propose the contemporary Western family to be the end point of a process of modernisation that has stretched over some two centuries have been countered by claims that nothing has changed very much since the Middle Ages. Notions that twentieth-century values of affection, intimacy, privacy and the rights of the individual were born in the 1700s conflict with views that such precepts are inherent within our socio-cultural heritage. Whilst more recent scholars have attempted to break the resultant impasse (providing more rigorous studies, swelling the body of empirical evidence and emphasising heterogeneity), the subject has ground to something of a standstill. Focussing on marital and parental relationships, this dissertation will consider whether pictorial representations of the family can contribute to these debates. Whilst the transition outlined above may seem to support claims of change, the possibility of underlying continuities cannot be ignored.
* * * * * Whilst I will deal with each aspect of the historiography of the family in depth in the relevant chapters, this section will provide a brief survey of it as a basis for a methodological discussion. Literature on the subject is highly complex and convoluted, characterised by numerous schisms in the criteria for selection of data and, most importantly, in the interpretation of those data. In 1980, Michael Anderson
usefully elucidated the four main approaches to the subject current at that time:
psychohistory (which he immediately discarded), demography, the sentiments approach and the path of household economics. Of these, he regarded those who followed the route of analysing sentiments, of assessing degrees of affection, individualism and egality within the family, as the most controversiaI.I The most influential of these historians was Lawrence Stone. Whilst his seminal text, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800, is now largely vilified, Stone broke completely new ground and amassed an incredible amount of varied evidence relating to the family over three centuries. 2 Drawing heavily on the work of the French mentalities school in general and the writings of Phillipe Aries in particular, he traced the history of the family back to an 'Open Lineage' system in which marriage was uncommunicative and often brutal, children were largely ignored and relations "were not much closer than those with neighbours, with relatives, or with 'friends.'" This was supplanted in the sixteenth century by a new domesticity, creating the 'Restricted Patriarchal Nuclear Family.' Although affective bonds were now stronger, church and M. Anderson, Approaches to the History of the Western Family 1500-1914 (London, 1980), chapter 3 For criticisms of Stone, see J.W. Scott, 'The History of the Family as an Affective Unit', Social History 4, 3 (1979), pp.S09-16; E.P. Thompson. 'Happy Families: Lawrence Stone's The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800', New Society 41 (8 September 1977), pp.499-S01;
state reinforced the power of the head of the household and thus created "a legalised petty tyrant within the home." However, supervening these two domestic environments, Stone then proposed the modem 'Closed Domesticated Nuclear Family,' materialising out of the patriarchal gloom in the later seventeenth century.
Children were now treasured and had time, love, energy and money lavished upon them, economic concerns in marriage were supplanted by a desire for "well-tried personal affection" and the dominance of the patriarch was mitigated by a new awareness of individual rights. 3 This developmental model was reflected in the work of many of Stone's contemporaries, although each proffered a different time scale and focussed on a different class as the vanguard of change. Randolph Trumbach similarly emphasised the eighteenth century as the key period of transition but proposed the aristocracy as at the forefront whilst Edward Shorter favoured the lower classes. He claimed that plebeians were the first to experience 'modem' values of privacy, intimacy and sensuality in the early nineteenth century as a direct result of the industrial revolution. 4 Such models have been variously and heavily attacked. Revisionists have condemned such whiggish theses as simplistic, as reducing the complexities and vagaries of domestic life into a series of diametrically opposed principles. They have A. Macfarlane, 'The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 by Lawrence Stone', History and Theory 18 (1979a), pp.103-126 L. Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800 (London, 1977), chapter 3, 'The Open Lineage Family 1450-1630'; chapter 4, 'The Restricted Patriarchal Nuclear Family 1550and, for the 'Closed Domesticated Nuclear Family' see chapter 7, 'Mating Arrangements', chapter 8, 'The Companionate Marriage', and chapter 9, 'Parent-Child Relations'. Quoting pp.5, 7,
272. P. Aries, Centuries of Childhood (1960), trans!. R. Baldick (Harmondsworth, 1962) R. Trumbach, The Rise of the Egalitarian Family: Aristocratic Kinship and Domestic Relations in Eighteenth-Century England (New York, San Francisco and London, 1978); E. Shorter, The Making of the Modern Family (London, 1976) criticised the perception of families as either formal or affectionate, marriages as either based on pecuniary motives or on true love and children as either virtually abused or carefully nurtured. s These scholars have also objected to the 'presentcentredness' of the traditional model of change. 6 Both John W. Scott and E.P.
Thompson have criticised Stone's The Family, Sex and Marriage in these terms, the
latter suggesting that "the prospective purchaser is supposed to squeal excitedly:
'Darling, look, the history of us!"7 The quest for 'modem' notions of familial affection can easily result in a picture of their absence in the pre-modem period and, therefore, in a linear model that focuses on their origin, development and culmination.
However, perhaps most problematic of all is the value judgement inherent in the placing of antipathetic values at either end of a time continuum, suggesting that the pre-modem family is 'nicer' or, more commonly, 'nastier' than that of the twentieth century.S Shorter, for example, referred to the family's "journey into the modem world" and, having outlined the formal and formulaic world of the French peasant in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, sighed, "what a sad little world from our modem perspective, in which cafcuf dominates fa vie intime, and sentiment counts for nothing in the vital decisions of life."9 5 K. Wrightson, 'The Family in Early Modern England: Continuity and Change,' in R. Connors, C. Jones and S. Taylor, eds., Hanoverian England and Empire: Essays in Memory of Philip Lawson (Woodbridge, 1998), pp.12-13 For example, see A. Wilson, 'The Infancy of the History of Childhood: An Appraisal of Philippe Aries', History and Theory 19 (1980), pp.132-53 7 Scott, 'The History of the Family', pp.509-16, especially pp. 509,514; Thompson, 'Happy Families', pp.499-50 1, quoting p.499 M. Hunt, The Middling Sort: Commerce, Gender and the Family in England 1680-1780 (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1996), p.7 9 Shorter, The Making of the Modern Family, pp.3, 148 In reaction against the idea that the family had followed a clear process of development and improvement, culminating in the twentieth century, many historians went to the other extreme and advocated almost complete continuity. Alan Macfarlane was the most notable of these, claiming that "the English now have roughly the same family system as they had in about 1250."10 He argued that reasonably egalitarian, affectionate and personally determined marriages could be traced back to (at least) the thirteenth century and denied "any basic shift in... deep affection for children. "11 In particular, he focussed on Ralph Josselin, a seventeenth-century clergyman, whose personal diary reveals a caring and reciprocal relationship between father and offspring at a date when, according to Stone, the authoritarian pater familias was supposed to be crushing the last vestiges of infantile behaviour out of his children.I2 However, efforts to smooth out all transitions over centuries of family life are even more problematic than attempts to assert a linear progression. Whilst the use of macro-developments such as industrialisation and urbanisation to explain neatly the modernisation of the household is questionable, so too is claiming that the family unit was immune to all such historical change. Equally, the criticisms of 'presentcentredness' that have been levelled at Shorter and Stone are just as applicable to the work of Macfarlane. He privileged the modem to the same degree as his forebears by refusing to believe that things could have ever been any different. Similarly, both
schools have refused to acknowledge the inevitable slippages between historical sources and their meanings, either finding evidence for 'modern' conceptions of family life in the past or commenting on its absence. Finally, whilst Stone, Shorter and Trumbach suggested a variety of reasons for their posited shift in domestic life in the eighteenth century, no satisfactory reason has been given to explain the supposed resilience of the family to all external social, cultural and economic forces. 13 More recently, therefore, historians have warned about over-subscribing to either of these polarised models of continuity or change. RB. Outhwaite has rightly warned that "we should resist the temptation to substitute one extreme stereotype for another" and Tamara K. Hareven has advised a methodological compromise between the two in her recommendation of the life-course approach to family history. Whilst she objects to the "linearity" of models of change and to "generalisations for the entire society based on the experience of one class, usually the middle class," she has also argued that over-emphasis of continuity has "sometimes obscured important historical differences between past and present family patterns. "14 Many, as a result, have opted for analysing a few specific sources in depth in order to emphasise individual agency and variation. However, this approach raises problems of its own. Whilst it implies a greater investigative honesty, allowing examples to stand on their own merits rather than forcing them into broad schemata, it is not difficult to exploit the individual study's air of authority to attack the macro-history. Any wide thesis can be seemingly undermined by the elucidation of one or two exceptions, accused of gross 13 Wrightson, 'The Family in Early Modern England', p.15 14 R.B. Outhwaite, 'Introduction: Problems and Perspectives in the History of Marriage', in R.B.
Outhwaite, ed., Marriage and Society: Studies in the Social History of Marriage (London, 1981), p.7;
T.K. Hareven, 'The History of the Family and the Complexity of Social Change', American Historical Review 96 (1991), pp. 104, 124 oversimplification and, thus, seemingly debunked. Second, as well as the possibility of descending into mere biography or retrospective cultural anthropology, such cases are largely rootless without a general theoretical framework such as that established by Lawrence Stone. 15 Without a wider context, or at least the cross-referencing of a number of examples, it is difficult to address the issue of change in a study of this sort. Third, if the biographical or anthropological charge is unfounded, then surely this is because the writer is inferring that the case study is typical, at least of the class, gender or profession in question, once again raising the issue of generalisation. 16 In short, the use of macro- and micro-studies and the construction of their relationship is riddled with difficulties. As Judith Lewis asked in a review article;
How can we uncover intimate details in the lives and attitudes of ordinary, even anonymous, people? How can we adequately study such large groups without sacrificing the accuracy of detail? Can we then study smaller groups and still make a case for women, or for the working classes as a whole?17 15 Hannah Barker and Elaine Chalus in their 'Introduction' to H. Barker and E. Chalus, eds., Gender in Eighteenth-Century England: Roles, Representations and Responsibilities (London and New York, 1997), p.7 discuss the problem of empirical investigation as a critical component of much recent work by gender historians. Whilst one camp calls for research into the lives of 'real' women, the other supports the model of patriarchy as "without the structure provided by a unifying theoretical model such as patriarchy, women's history would 'founder in a welter of dissociated and contradictory 'facts. ".
16 J.S. Lewis, 'Separate Spheres: Threat or Promise?', Journal of British Studies 30 (1991), Family, Love, and Work in the Lives of Victorian pp.107-8 attacked M. Jeanne Peterson's Gentlewomen, a study of the Paget family, as, whilst the writer "cautiously and wisely avoids calling the Paget nexus a sample...it nevertheless functions similarly since the group is taken to 'typify' or help explain issues larger than itself."