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Abstract

In his classic work, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500–1800, Lawrence Stone argues that the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the rise of companionate marriage, a form of familial organization in which the choice of a spouse was largely left to the discretion of children rather than their parents, in which wives became responsible for managing the household and organizing leisure activities, as well as supervising the education of their children, and in which couples considered emotional intimacy and affective ties a requisite for a happy marriage. Published one year after Stone’s book, Randolph Trumbach’s The Rise of the Egalitarian Family similarly claims that patriarchy was slowly replaced by domesticity during the eighteenth century, eventually leading to “a pattern of close and loving association between husband and wife, and of doting care for children.” Subsequent historians of gender and the family have challenged these models by finding much of the evidence upon which they are based to be “an expression of the ideal model of gender relations [in the period] rather than a reflection of its reality” and by emphasizing the “complicated and contradictory nature” of that reality as a result of “the diversity of ways in which men constructed and thought about themselves, and deployed those facets of selfidentity in their relations with other men and women.” While Stone maintains that “patriarchal attitudes within the home markedly declined, and greater autonomy was granted not only to children but also to wives,” other historians contend that, in the words of Anthony Fletcher, while patriarchy was challenged by the deployment of domesticity and sentimentality, “men revised a scheme of gender relations [during the eighteenth century] that served their interests as men so effectively” that patriarchy survived.

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