Perspectives on the Family in Spain, Past and Present

Perspectives on the Family in Spain, Past and Present

Perspectives on the Family in Spain, Past and Present

Perspectives on the Family in Spain, Past and Present

Synopsis

This is the first comprehensive study of the family in Spain from 1700 to 1970. Using approaches from a number of disciplines, it examines the family as a dynamic unit working within the constraints of the prevailing social, demographic, economic, and cultural realities in any given historical context.

Excerpt

Establishing the basic patterns of co-residence is essential for any analysis of the family. While it is clear that the family transcends the co-residential domestic group, it is also true that many aspects of family life take place within the household. It is the most readily accessible of all family units, mainly because in many historical sources the co-residential domestic group is the basic unit of aggregation. Here I am mainly referring to national census returns (data are collected by family unit), local listings of inhabitants (padrones in Spanish), and liber status animarum (libros de matrículas). All of these sources are constrained by the prevailing definition of household (hogar), and by the fact that at times, especially before the latter part of the eighteenth century, parts of the population may not have been enumerated and the age distribution of the resident population is often missing. Another problem affecting these data is that they tend to portray residential patterns in a static way, rather than dynamically as we might well imagine family development processes to have been. Yet local listings are ubiquitous, at least from the eighteenth century on, and their analysis enables us to draw a fairly accurate picture of how residential patterns were distributed throughout the country and how they developed over time.

In Spain the recent growth in interest in family history has revolutionized our understanding of patterns of co-residence. One of the first achievements of this admittedly young field has been the identification of a significant diversity of family forms on the peninsula. The existence of regional characteristics of household structure, formation, and dissolution has been related to the relative homogeneity of inheritance practices and socio-economic structures within different regions (Rowland, 1988). It has also been suggested that the regional patterns which seem to have characterized the co-residential group in Spain were quite consistent within any given region. In most of central and southern Spain, household structures seem to have always been dominated by the nuclear family, and where complexity existed, it was normally for reasons unrelated to inheritance. The only areas of the Iberian Peninsula where levels of complexity were high seem to have been located above a line stretching from northern Portugal in the west, running just south of the northern coastal mountain ranges into the Basque Country, and then along the Pyrenees, swinging down into Catalonia. In these areas inheritance practices and social and demographic structures differed markedly from the rest of the country (Douglass, 1988a).

Establishing these regional, ecological, social, and economic dimensions of . . .

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