‘My narrow-prying neighbours blab’: moral perceptions of the early modern household

Catherine Richardson

in Domestic Life and Domestic Tragedy in Early Modern England

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780719065446
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701164 | DOI:
‘My narrow-prying neighbours blab’: moral perceptions of the early modern household

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In late sixteenth-century England, domestic life became the subject of scrutiny: just what was the household, how might it be made to further God's intentions for the world, what ideals should govern conduct within it? The project of the ecclesiastical courts was to ensure that domestic activities were equally subject to moral justice as their more physically open counterparts, and to insist that the same precepts of Christian morality and charity governed behaviour in every space under the watchful eye of God's providence. This chapter takes its evidence from household manuals and from ecclesiastical court depositions, evidence that makes it possible to connect literary didacticism to the written record of oral tales about domestic space and behaviour. In pursuing the points at which early modern men and women think spatially, and the way they moralise spatial relations, it considers the house from the outside, from the boundary and from the inside.

Keywords: England; domestic life; household; domestic space; boundary; morality; ecclesiastical courts; household manuals; ecclesiastical court depositions; spatial relations

Chapter.  19122 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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