The European Peasant Family and Society


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In recent years the peasant household has become a central focal point of social history. This is true not only because the peasant represents the major element of European society through the nineteenth century, but also because many of the main issues in modern historical debate can be studied within the sphere of the peasant family. This book deals with the European peasant family during the period of transformation from agrarian to industrial society, the time called by some the period of protoindustrialization. The essays in this volume explore some of the major issues concerning the influence of the economy, society and institutions on the peasant household and, conversely, the influence of the peasant household on the outside world. Themes dealt with include the ways in which the physical environment and the economy may make for very different family structures and even affect intra-family relationships; the effects of inheritance, marriage and kinship strategies, as well as social pressure, on peasant family structure and demography; the debate about changing gender roles and status; the debate over the manner and effects of class formation; questions of social and political agency; the nature of gender and parent-child relations; the validity of protoindustrial theory; and the role of peasants in initiating industrialization as consumers, producers and as a labor force. In examining these themes, the essays provide both case studies and innovative analysis by preeminent international scholars in the fields of family and women’s history, economic history and demography.

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