Thursday, 3 October 2013

Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780-1850 by Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall

Revised edition: Family Fortunes (rev edn, 2002) has become a seminal text in class and gender history.

Published to wide critical acclaim in 1987, its influence in the field continues to be extensive.

It has cast new light on the perception of middle-class society and gender relations between 1780 and 1850.

This revised edition contains a substantial new introduction, discussing the original text in the light of subsequent historical debates.

Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall evaluate the readings their text has received and broaden their study by taking into account recent developments and shifts in the field.

While acknowledging the rich new research and provocative thinking in cultural and social history, the key arguments of Family Fortunes, they suggest, remain central to an understanding of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century English society.

"This book explores how the middle class constructed its own institutions, material culture and values during the Industrial Revolution, looking at two settings- urban manufacturing Birmingham and rural Essex - both centers of active capitalist development.  The use of sources is dazzling:  family business records, architectural designs, diaries, wills and trusts, newspapers, prescriptive literature, sermons, manuscript census tracts, the papers of philanthropic societies, popular fiction and poetry.  Family Fortunes occupies a place beside Mary Ryan's The Cradle of the Middle Class (1983) and Suzanne Lebsock's Free Women of Petersburg (1985).  It...facilitates a comparative perspective on the history of (English) middle-class women, property and the family." (Judith Walkowitz, Professor of Modern European Cultural and Social history, from Johns Hopkins University.)

Family Fortunes is more than ever a topical and indispensable text for students and teachers of both social and gender history.

About the author:  Leonore Davidoff is Research Professor of Social History at the University of Essex.  Her numerous publications include Worlds Between: Historical Perspectives on Gender and Class (1995), and she has co-authored The Family Story: Blood, Contract and Intimacy 1830-1960 (1999).

Catherine Hall is Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History at University College London and has published, among many others, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830-1867 (2002) and White, Male and Middle-Class: Explorations in Feminism and History (1992).