Gender and Power in Britain, 1640-1990

Gender and Power in Britain, 1640-1990

Gender and Power in Britain, 1640-1990

Gender and Power in Britain, 1640-1990

Synopsis

Gender and Power in Britain is an original and exciting history of Britain from the early modern period to the present focusing on the interaction of gender and power in political, social, cultural and economic life. Using a chronological framework, the book examines:* the roles, responsibilities and identities of men and women* how power relationships were established within various gender systems* how women and men reacted to the institutions, laws, customs, beliefs and practices that constituted their various worlds* class, racial and ethnic considerations* the role of empire in the development of British institutions and identities* the civil war* twentieth century suffrage* the world wars * industrialisation* Victorian morality.

Excerpt

The seventeenth century was marked by extraordinary change and upheaval. In every area of life-from the economy, to society, to religion, to politics, to the family-traditions, customs, and eternal verities faced challenge and resistance. On farms and in workshops, new capitalist methods of production and organization began to take hold, transforming the relations between landlords and tenants, masters and journeymen and -women. A new social grouping appeared-called "middling" because of their ranking between the landed gentry, who did no work, and the rest of society, who worked with their hands-which challenged the traditional exercise of power in society by the landed classes. In religion, puritans questioned the right of the bishops of the Church of England to organize religious life, and sought to implement their own godly order. In politics, many of these "middling" people, and puritans drawn from the gentry, resisted the efforts of the Stuart kings to rule absolutely, and fought a civil war in order to assert the supremacy of parliament. Within the family, sons challenged their fathers for the right to inherit property, and wives demanded more than mere spiritual equality with their husbands.

In every one of these areas, authority-the source of power in any given jurisdiction-came under direct assault. Throughout the seventeenth century, debates about the location of authority in the state, in the church, in society, and in the family raged, marking the period as, in the words of one of its most prominent historians, "the century of revolution."

Protagonists involved in these struggles over authority-puritans, parliamentarians, royal supporters, men and women of all ranks-often argued their points using metaphors of gender. Contemporaries frequently framed their support for a particular position about monarchical power, for instance, by comparing it to the power of the father in the family. By drawing upon current-and often contradictory-ideas about masculinity and femininity, about the natures of men

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