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Sibling Relations and the Transformations of European Kinship, 1300-1900

Sibling Relations and the Transformations of European Kinship, 1300-1900

Christopher H. Johnson
David Warren Sabean
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Sibling Relations and the Transformations of European Kinship, 1300-1900
    Book Description:

    Recently considerable interest has developed about the degree to which anthropological approaches to kinship can be used for the study of the long-term development of European history. From the late middle ages to the dawn of the twentieth century, kinship - rather than declining, as is often assumed - was twice reconfigured in dramatic ways and became increasingly significant as a force in historical change, with remarkable similarities across European society. Applying interdisciplinary approaches from social and cultural history and literature and focusing on sibling relationships, this volume takes up the challenge of examining the systemic and structural development of kinship over the long term by looking at the close inner-familial dynamics of ruling families (the Hohenzollerns), cultural leaders (the Mendelssohns), business and professional classes, and political figures (the Gladstones)in France, Italy, Germany, and England. It offers insight into the current issues in kinship studies and draws from a wide range of personal documents: letters, autobiographies, testaments, memoirs, as well as genealogies and works of art.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-046-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. List of Figures and Illustrations
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. Preface
    (pp. x-xii)
    Christopher H. Johnson and David Warren Sabean
  5. Introduction From Siblingship to Siblinghood Kinship and the Shaping of European Society (1300–1900)
    (pp. 1-28)
    Christopher H. Johnson and David Warren Sabean

    This book is the second in a series arising from the collaboration of a group of historians from a dozen countries interested in mapping the history of kinship in Europe from the Middle Ages to the present. The first,Kinship in Europe: Approaches to Long-Term Development (1300–1900), traced the general dimensions of the project in fifteen chapters by specialists across this broad time span with the goal of convincing the scholarly world that kinship was at every turn a critical force in shaping the general history of Europe.¹ Perhaps the most surprising point was the demonstration that far from...

  6. Part One Property, Politics, and Sibling Strategies (Late Medieval and Early Modern)

    • Chapter 1 Dowry: Sharing Inheritance or Exclusion? Timing, Destination, and Contents of Transmission in Late Medieval and Early Modern France
      (pp. 31-46)
      Bernard Derouet

      In Europe from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, the relationships among siblings were strongly influenced by the position assigned to each child from the perspective of the family patrimony. In this regard, what was in play concerned a potential inequality among siblings not only in the attribution of wealth and material goods, but also in the way in which those among them were considered—or not—to be the true continuators of the family, bearers of its identity who were charged with its perpetuation. This distribution of roles among different children took place or became manifest at two essential...

    • Chapter 2 Maintenance Regulations and Sibling Relations in the High Nobility of Late Medieval Germany
      (pp. 47-64)
      Karl-Heinz Spieß

      This article focuses on the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, since the lack of source material makes it very difficult to formulate general remarks about sibling relations in the Early and High Middle Ages. Even though many individual cases are known from the early period, such as the problematic relationship between the sons of the emperor Louis the Pious, only the wider scope of sources found for the Late Middle Ages (including letters, testaments, or pictures) allows for more general statements.¹

      The “family order” of the late-medieval high nobility in Germany had two principal aims. To begin with, a central concern...

    • Chapter 3 Do Sisters Have Brothers? The Search for the “rechte Schwester”: Brothers and Sisters in Aristocratic Society at the Turn of the Sixteenth Century
      (pp. 65-84)
      Michaela Hohkamp

      As the traditional bourgeois family, a product of early modern Europe, lost its function as a political, social, and cultural motif in the second half of the twentieth century and alternative forms of cohabitation were emerging in Western industrialized societies, European research began to view and study the family as a historical and culturally shifting segment of society. Over time, the classical techniques for studying family networks, such as historical demography, have profited from socio-anthropological theories and methods as well as from gender-specific approaches. The primary outcome of these studies has been twofold: the insight that family and kinship formations...

    • Chapter 4 Subordinates, Patrons, and Most Beloved: Sibling Relationships in Seventeenth-Century German Court Society
      (pp. 85-110)
      Sophie Ruppel

      “Siblingship is not a well established, clear-cut universal category, but rather a question to be put to each culture to be answered in that culture’s own terms,” writes the anthropologist David Schneider.¹ His comment was directed to ethnology, a discipline that has described a variety of forms of sibling relationship in different parts of the world.² Historians have only recently discovered sibling relationships as a topic that can provide new perspectives on different periods of the past.

      We obviously cannot know what it meant to be a “brother” or “sister” unless we describe the phenomenon carefully within its own cultural...

    • Chapter 5 The Crown Prince’s Brothers and Sisters: Succession and Inheritance Problems and Solutions among the Hohenzollerns, from the Great Elector to Frederick the Great
      (pp. 111-144)
      Benjamin Marschke

      The rulers of Brandenburg-Prussia have long been assumed to have had unproblematic successions. The seemingly smooth successions through primogeniture have even been widely credited as a contributing factor in the rise of Brandenburg-Prussia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Indeed, the “canon” of Hohenzollern rulers has been viewed as almost predestined since the eighteenth century: the “Great Elector” Frederick William (1640–1688), Elector/King Frederick III/I (1688–1701–1713), King Frederick William I (1713–1740), and King Frederick II, “the Great” (1740–1786).¹ In reality, each of the Hohenzollern rulers faced serious kinship and succession problems typical of the time.²


    • Chapter 6 Evolution within Sibling Groups from One Kinship System to Another (Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries)
      (pp. 145-164)
      Gérard Delille

      Both relative status and social interaction among brothers and sisters have long been considered essential to understanding the fundamental mechanisms that “structure” a society at any given moment. For anthropologists, the study of these relationships constitutes a necessary starting point for approaching any society.¹ In Western history, it has made all the difference to the supporting framework of the social orders whether it was characterized by strict equality between genders and older and younger siblings, with an equitable sharing of goods, or by strict male primogeniture and exclusion of daughters and younger males from inheritance. Indeed in the latter system,...

  7. Part Two Sibling Relations, Close Marriage, and Horizontal Kinship, 1750–1900

    • Chapter 7 Brother Trouble: Murder and Incest in Scottish Ballads
      (pp. 167-188)
      Ruth Perry

      Ballads—those beautiful sung narratives that flourished in the British Isles in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—can reveal to the cultural historian something about the social attitudes and psychological cast of the people who sang, listened, and daydreamed to them. But the critic who wants to read them as historical evidence must handle their texts carefully, because they are received literature, not usually written by the people who sang them, and each set of words is just one version among many variants that have evolved over time in the hands of different performers. What a single version that happened...

    • Chapter 8 Siblinghood and the Emotional Dimensions of the New Kinship System, 1800–1850: A French Example
      (pp. 189-220)
      Christopher H. Johnson

      For a half-century, French historians and demographers have been documenting the marked shift in marriage patterns in France (and beyond) toward consanguinity, including widespread first-cousin marriage, that occurred during the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Some, like Jean Sutter—the pioneer in such studies—attribute the change simply to large families and rapid population growth, hence the greater availability of consanguines, while others emphasize secularization and the declining concern with regard to the “incest” prohibitions of the church. The large-scale study by Jean-Louis Gouesse was content to demonstrate the phenomenon without searching for explanations. Neither larger changes in kinship structures...

    • Chapter 9 Kinship and Issues of the Self in Europe around 1800
      (pp. 221-238)
      David Warren Sabean

      In this chapter I aim to explore a number of issues that have to do with the restructuring of kinship in Europe during the several decades before and after 1800. In doing so I will concentrate mostly on texts that have to do with sibling relations and intense emotional ties between brothers and sisters, often imagined during that period as incestuous. I can only sketch in here a few salient features of the reconfiguration of kinship, contrasting what might be called “modern” kinship (beginning in the long nineteenth century) with its early modern form.¹ The coordinate set of structures that...

    • Chapter 10 Sisters, Wives, and the Sublimation of Desire in a Jewish-Protestant Friendship: The Letters of the Historian Johann Gustav Droysen and the Composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
      (pp. 239-262)
      Regina Schulte

      In the Museum of Prints and Drawings (Kupferstichkabinett) of the Berlin State Museums there is a portrait of the twenty-one-year-old Johann Gustav Droysen. He sits, his folded arms resting on a table, gazing out at the beholder. Before him lies a musical notation in his own hand, and on the lower edge of the picture a Greek text is visible—neither of them legible. This pencil drawing from 1829 is the work of the court painter Wilhelm Hensel.¹ The artist and the date locate the young Droysen within a distinct environment, the Mendelssohn family, and thus within the circles of...

    • Chapter 11 Husband, Wife, and Sister: Making and Remaking the Early Victorian Family
      (pp. 263-288)
      Mary Jean Corbett

      With ample selections from contemporary family letters, the sixth chapter of E. M. Forster’sMarianne Thornton: A Domestic Biography(1956), entitled “Deceased Wife’s Sister,” tells the story of “a fantastic mishap” that the members of his grandparents’ generation “could only regard as tragic.”¹ After the death of his first wife, Harriet, in 1840, Henry Thornton decided to take another—Harriet’s younger sister, slightly older than Henry himself—and at once, “the situation became very awkward.” Having lived with Henry all her life, his sister Marianne “behaved civilly” to Emily Dealtry, who “had continued to frequent the house” after Harriet’s demise,...

    • Chapter 12 Gender and Age in Nineteenth-Century Britain: The Case Of Anne, William, and Helen Gladstone
      (pp. 289-322)
      Leonore Davidoff

      In the voluminous body of writing about the career and personality of William Ewart Gladstone, four times prime minister and one of Britain’s most influential, controversial politicians, two elements have constantly puzzled commentators: his habit of nocturnal wanderings in search of high-class prostitutes for redemption, and his uncharacteristically bullying, even hostile, attitude to his younger sister, Helen. Neither of these issues looms large in the Gladstone corpus, but they make for uneasy assessment of the man.² While the relationships of the Gladstone siblings William, Ann, and Helen together with their brothers Thomas, Robertson, and John will probably never be fully...

  8. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 323-328)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 329-350)
  10. Index
    (pp. 351-356)