HIST 4100A: The Family in Early Modern Europe
Fall 2023/Winter 2024

Instructor: Professor Rod Phillips

In-person seminar

The family was the fundamental social unit of Early Modern Europe (about 1500-1800).  Not only did almost everyone live in a family household, but in this society of limited social mobility, one’s family of birth was largely a determinant of occupation, social standing, and financial well-being.  Almost all property was owned by families, whether royal or aristocratic families, bourgeois families, or the families of better-off urban and rural workers. Property persisted over time by family inheritance. The family, more than the individual, was a unit of labour whose survival ensure the well-being of its members.  In the absence of social welfare, families were expected to look after their own. Family decisions, such as marrying and having children, largely determined population growth and decline.

painting of a family

In this course we will examine the dynamics of family formation, process, and dissolution.  This includes topics such as premarital relationships, choice of marriage partner, marriage and remarriage, religion and the family, the family and the state, sexuality, fertility, illegitimacy, population growth/decline, family limitation, marital relationships, family government, family law, household size and composition, family property and inheritance, the family economy, children, parental relationships, domestic violence, separation and divorce, old age, death, widow(er)hood, and representations of the family in art.

Key themes include gender relationships, power in the family, and the relationship of the family and the state.

painting of people dancing

The seminar will meet once a week for three hours. Students are expected to prepare for each seminar by reading specified material, and each week one or more students will present articles to begin the discussion.  In the second half of the Winter term, students will give a presentation of their essay projects.

Coursework consists of participation in the seminar throughout the year, two article presentations (one each term), and an essay presentation and essay (Winter term).

If you have any questions, please contact me: roderick.phillips@carleton.ca