This is a concise, yet wide-ranging, history of the family in Europe from antiquity to the present day. It examines the effects on domestic life of key social, political and economic developments in European history, including the coming of Christianity; feudalism; the Renaissance; the Reformation; and most significantly, the Industrial Revolution. Goody sets his analysis in a broad comparative perspective, drawing examples from across the continent. He not only shows the experiences of regions within Europe differed at stages, but also highlights how the European experience paralleled and contrasted with that of other parts of the world, such as Africa and Asia. He asks whether the European family had any differentiating characteristics, and explores why such features might have developed over time. The final two chapters focus on the theory and practice of contemporary family life. The examine the facts behind claims that contemporary society is witnessing a so-calling 'break-down' of traditional family structures, and discuss the changes to accepted 'norms' in domestic groups.
The myths and realities of family life at the end of the twentieth century are contextualised within the discussions of earlier developments, giving an unusual and stimulating historical perspective on this key aspect of contemporary European society.
Jack Goody is a Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge, and was William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology at Cambridge from 1973 to 1985. He has written extensively on the family, memory, ritual, and literacy, in a wide variety of regional and historical contexts. His many books include
Death, Property and the Ancestors (1962),
The Domestication of the Savage Mind (1977),
The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe (1983),
The East and West (1996),
Representations and Contradictions (Blackwell, 1997) and
Food and Love (1999).