The Role of Family in Early Modern England Essay

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The Role of Family in Early Modern England

During the early modern period of England's history, the role of family played an important part in society. This was the same for both governed and governing classes.

The nuclear family (father, mother and children) as opposed to extended family was central to the residential and emotional affairs of most people. Patriarchachal society was the style of the time, males dominated in all aspects of life. The male was always the head of the household. Women were seen as subservient and their main purpose was to please her male counterpart. This was view was heavily based upon the story of Adam & Eve and the Garden of Eden, Eve was the first to succumb to temptation and persuaded Adam to eat the
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15% died in the first year, 10% died before their tenth birthday. Infant mortality rates were high. Stone claimed that parents kept distanced from their children because so many of them died that it was very hurtful to get attached to them. Gouge wrote that, while authority, discipline and instruction were necessary in bringing up children, there was also a need for affection and the overwhelming concern must always be for the welfare of the child. Parents were told never to correct a child while in a temper. Upper class children were likely to be treated with greater formality than others.

Changes in the period did occur, many directly relating to role of the family. Parental insistence was relaxed; parents had less influence on the decisions and choices made by their children. Another important change that occurred was that more and more women learnt to read and write; there were women who managed estates during the civil war. The 1600's was an important period for women as there identity began to evolve away from what the bible had previously held them to. In 1616 Dorothy Leigh published a conduct book for men. Through this she sought to change male attitudes, although she claimed not to be undermining the existing social order. Instead she urged for a role model for women to give them greater self-respect. Dorothy argued that Jesus' birth mother, Mary, had freed women from the burden of Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden.