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Johns Hopkins University Press
Contested Paternity: Constructing Families in Modern France

Contested Paternity: Constructing Families in Modern France

by Rachel G. Fuchs


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This groundbreaking study examines complex notions of paternity and fatherhood in modern France through the lens of contested paternity. Drawing from archival judicial records on paternity suits, paternity denials, deprivation of paternity, and adoption, from the end of the eighteenth century through the twentieth, Rachel G. Fuchs reveals how paternity was defined and how it functioned in the culture and experiences of individual men and women. She addresses the competing definitions of paternity and of families, how public policy toward paternity and the family shifted, and what individuals did to facilitate their personal and familial ideals and goals.

Issues of paternity and the family have broad implications for an understanding of how private acts were governed by laws of the state. Focusing on paternity as a category of family history, Contested Paternity emphasizes the importance of fatherhood, the family, and the law within the greater context of changing attitudes toward parental responsibility.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801898334
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 08/01/2010
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Rachel G. Fuchs is a professor of history at Arizona State University.

Table of Contents

1. Families and the Social Order from the Old Regime to the Civil Code
2. Seduction and Courtroom Encounters in the Nineteenth Century
3. Find the Fathers, Save the Children, 1870–1912
4. Courts Attribute Paternity, 1912–1940
5. Families Dismantled and Reconstituted, 1880–1940
6. Paternity and the Family, 1940 to the Present
Works Cited

What People are Saying About This

Lenard Berlanstein

A masterpiece in French social, cultural, and gender history. A sweeping account of a crucial but neglected subject, Contested Paternity gets to the heart of the issues that dominate modern French history—above all the tension between a revolutionary and a counterrevolutionary political culture and the long transition from a culture organized around the patriarchal family to one organized around the ungendered individual.

Lenard Berlanstein, University of Virginia

Robert A. Nye

In this richly-documented study, Rachel Fuchs opens up a new window into the history of families by perceptively examining the legal and customary ways that paternity was negotiated in French society from the old regime to the present. This angle of approach yields extraordinary insights into the evolution of fatherhood, women’s changing legal status, and children’s rights and shows us convincingly how the family changed from a biological unit which admitted no outsiders, to a fluid, social institution that effectively satisfies the needs of all its members, no matter what their blood relationships. The way this development unfolded in both custom and law is told here with clarity, scrupulous attention to detail, and often dramatically pertinent illustrations drawn from, correspondence, trials, and landmark jurisprudence.

Robert A. Nye, Oregon State University

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