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Seminar 2

Seminar 2: The Nuclear Family: Myth or Reality? For most of the period since 1860 the nuclear family was a norm in British culture and society and it was widely experienced. It was assumed the contemporary model of family life would strengthen and continue. In this seminar we will investigate whether this ideal did correspond with the family lives of the life of the British people and in what ways it supported or oppressed it members. We will look at how kinship networks have changed, or remained intact, over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Seminar/Essay Questions:
  1. Were the 1950s a ‘golden age’ for the nuclear family?
  2. Is there still a place for the extended family in modern society?
  3. Have the functions of the extended family been transferred to the state?
  4. Do you think the nuclear family was beneficial or problematic for its members and in what ways?
Seminar Reading: M. Doolittle, ‘Close Relations? Bringing Together Gender and Family in English History’ Gender and History 11 (1999) 542-554. S. Duncan and D. Smith, ‘Geographies of Family Formations: Spatial Differences and Gender Cultures in Britain’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 27 (2002) 471-93. J. Finch and P. Summerfield, ‘Social Reconstruction and the Emergence of Companionate Marriage, 1945-1959’ in D. Clark (ed.), Marriage, Domestic Life and Social Change: Writings for Jacqueline Burgoyne (1991) 7-32. M. Gente, ‘The Expansion of the Nuclear Family Unit in Great Britain between 1910 and 1920’, The History of the Family 6 (2001) 125-142. P. Horn, Life Below Stairs in the 20th Century (2003) 3-38. Additional Reading: N. Abercrombies and A. Warde, Family, Household and the Life Course (1995). G.K. Behmer, Friends of the Family: The English Home and its Guardians, 1850-1940 (1998). E. Bott, Family and Social Network: Roles, Norms and External Relationships in Ordinary Urban Families (1957). L. Davidoff, M. Doolittle, J. Fink and K. Holden, The Family Story: Blood, Contract and Intimacy, 1830-1960 (1999). M. Forster, Hidden Lives: A Family Memoir (1996). J.R. Gillis, For Better, For Worse: British Marriages, 1600 to the Present (1985). J.E. Goldthorpe, Family Life in Western Societies: A Historical Sociology of Family Relationships in Britain and North America (1987). J. Harris, Family: A Social History of the Twentieth Century (1994). J. Klein, Samples from English Cultures (1965). P. Laslett, The World We Have Lost (1965). P. Laslett and R. Wall (eds.), Household and Family in Past Times (1972). A. Olechnowicz, Working-Class Housing in England Between the Wars: The Becontree Estate (1997). E. Roberts, A Woman’s Place: An Oral History of Working Class Women, 1890-1940 (1984). C. Rosser and C. Harris, The Family and Social Change: A Study of Family and Kinship in a South Wales Town (1983). S. Ruggles, Prolonged Connections: The Rise of the Extended Family in Nineteenth Century England and America (1987). D.S. Ryan, The Ideal Home Through the 20th Century (1997). E. Shorter, The Making of the Modern Family (1976). P. Thompson, The Edwardians: The Remaking of British Society (1992). R. Wall, J. Robin and P. Laslett, Family Forms in Historic Europe (1983). W.M. Williams, A West Country Village: Ashworthy (1963). P. Willmott and M. Young, Family and Class in a London Suburb (1960). J. Winter (ed.), The Working Class in Modern British History (1983). M. Young and P. Willmott, Family and Kinship in East London (1957). M. Young and P. Willmott, The Symmetrical Family: A Study of Work and Leisure in the London Region (1975).