The Conjugal Family and Bilateral Kinship: Social Flexibility through Looser Ties of Descent

in Why Europe

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780226532530
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226532387 | DOI:
The Conjugal Family and Bilateral Kinship: Social Flexibility through Looser Ties of Descent

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter analyzes family in medieval Europe. In his survey “Characteristics of the Western Family Considered over Time,” Peter Laslett grouped specific characteristics of the European family into four areas, all of which indicate the influence of the manorial system. All four can be connected with the hide system and point toward different facets of the conjugal family: In the simple family household, the conjugal couple were the nucleus. The uniquely advanced age at marriage was tied to the fact that marriage established the independence of the master or mistress of the house. The significance of remarriage can be explained by the necessity of having to keep the key positions of master and mistress of the house filled. Working as a servant was correlated with marriage at an advanced age. Until you could marry, you were kept in a dependent position that was essentially a child's role—if not at your parents' house then living as a farmhand or maid with a family unrelated to you. These four characteristics of the Western family can be supplemented by still others that similarly involve a strong conjugal family, that have roots going well back in time, and that also display connections to the hide system.

Keywords: European family; medieval Europe; manorial system; hide system; conjugal family

Chapter.  17600 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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