07/31/07 - small families

In today's excerpt - with the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s and early 1800s, the family in Western Europe and other industrializing areas changes:

"Industrialization remade the family. In agrarian societies, farming families were units of both production and consumption. Urban industrial life increasingly removed production from families, changing roles and relationships among men women and children. ... Much of the early British workforce -- especially in textiles but also in mines -- was composed of women and children who could be more easily managed than men. Although that changed over time and more men than women composed the English working class by 1900, in Japan girls and young women too formed the backbone of the textile workforce. There, hard-pressed rural families 'contracted' their daughters out to textile mills: the family patriarch got the pay (in annual installments), and the girls got work and the promise of life in safe dormitories until they were ready to marry. ...

"Where women and children initially worked in factories (giving us the horror-filled novels of Charles Dickens such as David Copperfield and Oliver Twist), legislation restricting children's and women's labor turned factories into workingplaces for men. A woman's place was redefined as being in the home and taking care of domestic affairs, even while taking in laundry and other odd chores to help make ends meet. Prohibited from working until age twelve or thirteen, the task of children became (minimally) to master an elementary school education. As children came to be seen as causing family expenses and not contributing to family income, the number of children married couples were willing to have began to decline, especially in the period after 1870, and families got smaller."


Robert B. Marks


The Origins of the Modern World: A Global And Ecological Narrative from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-first Century


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.


Copyright 2007 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.


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