Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Family Welfare: Gender Property, and Inheritance since the Seventeenth Century

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Family Welfare: Gender Property, and Inheritance since the Seventeenth Century

Article excerpt

Green, David R. and Owens Alastair (Eds.). FAMILY WELFARE: GENDER PROPERTY, AND INHERITANCE SINCE THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY. Praeger Publishers 2004, Westport.

Hearing the word "welfare", social scientists usually think of the state as the main provider and administrator of welfare. Also, welfare is often exclusively connected with the needy parts of the population, being defined as provision for the poor. However, as the authors of this book argue, there are other dimensions of welfare, too. Specifically, the contributors focus on the family as one major site of the transition of property and the provision of support.

In ten chapters, the authors thus track down various examples for family welfare from the 17th to the 20th century. In doing so, they take the reader on a journey through different times, societies and places in Europe and the USA. Following this journey, we meet, amongst others, small mountain communities in southern France, a rural community in South Bohemia, a dynasty in the Alps, elite families in the United States, orphans in Amsterdam, widows in Germany, and the urban society of 18th century Gothenburg.

As the extract of the contents summarised above suggests, the contributors mainly chose case studies to approach the issue of family welfare. They deal with small units of analysis such as individual families or little communities in order to grasp the complexity of the topic. Correspondingly, the data they refer to includes e.g. letters, records of divorce proceedings and private archives. Thus, the authors explore small pieces of a mosaic, rather than trying to paint the whole picture. These selected small pieces manage to give insights into the issue from different ankles. By the same token, the detailed discussions of the single cases may partly seem too extensive for readers who take a more general interest in the topic. However, the ten studies collected in the book are accompanied by a very useful introduction, which can also be read as a summary. In the introduction, the editors explain the relevance of the topic and give an overview illustrated by selected empirical examples. …

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