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UNIT 13: Family and Household

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VIDEO SEGMENT: The European Family and Household from Ancient Rome to Early Modern Europe

This segment looks at European households from Ancient Rome to the early modern period. In so doing, it demonstrates the many ways that families and households were greatly influenced by political and economic forces in the wider society. Over the centuries, many factors shaped family life in Europe, including state legal codes, Christianity, and urbanization.

In early Rome, for example, legal codes dictated much of what went on inside households. With the rise of Christianity, the patriarchal traditions of these codes were reinforced by endowing them with religious authority. By the twelfth century, the Church influenced many of the intimate details of family life — from marriage to sexuality.

Historians have also learned a great deal about the treatment and rearing of children within European families. In the past, scholars assumed that parents of the medieval period viewed their children as small adults. Recently, however, scholars have used medical texts, art, and literature to demonstrate that medieval parents in fact had a great deal of affection and love for their children.

European families changed in many ways between the Roman and the medieval period as a result of economic changes. Indeed, by the thirteenth century capitalism, urbanization, and the use of cash were all on the rise. As a result, the role of the household as hubs of economic activity declined as families moved from rural areas to cities and became more dependent on local markets.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Anonymous, ST. MARTIN CHURCH, FACADE (12th century). Courtesy of WorldArt Kiosk/Kathleen Cohen.

Anonymous, MEDIAEVAL WOODCUT SHOWING THE BIRTH OF A CHILD (n.d.). Courtesy of The Image Works.


Anonymous, HENRY IV OF FRANCE PLAYING WITH CHILDREN (c. 1400). Image donated by Corbis - Bettmann.

Anonymous, MARRIAGE OF BOEMOND AND CONSTANCE OF FRANCE (15th century). Courtesy of The Image Works.



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