This is a concise, yet wide-ranging, history of the family in Europe from antiquity to the present day. It examines the effects on domestic life of key social, political and economic developments in European history, including the coming of Christianity; feudalism; the Renaissance; the Reformation; and most significantly, the Industrial Revolution.
Goody sets his analysis in a broad comparative perspective, drawing examples from across the continent. He not only shows how the experiences of regions within Europe differed at various stages, but also highlights how the European experience mirrored and diverged from those of other parts of the world; in particular, Africa and Asia. He asks whether the European family had any differentiating characteristics, and explores why such features might have developed over time.
The final two chapters focus on the theory and practice of contemporary family life. They examine the evidence behind claims that contemporary society is witnessing a so-called 'break-down' of traditional family structures, and discuss the changes to accepted 'norms' in domestic groups. The myths and realities of family life at the end of the twentieth century are contextualized within the discussions of earlier developments, giving an insightful and stimulating historical perspective on this key aspect of contemporary European society.