Monday, 15 August 2016

Myths of Family Past

I'm reading John R. Gillis book A World of Their Own Making, Myth, Ritual, and the Quest for Family Values published in 1996. It gives European and North American historical perspective relating to the popular, politically charged American term, "family values."

Gilles is a Rutgers University Professor Emeritus of History. The first chapter, Myths of Family Past, has some interesting facts, or perhaps factoids as I've not tried to verify them, which I'll share.

  • Prior to the 19th century very few families were conscious of their own origins. Until very recently their family stories were about hard times and their memories of childhood often bitter.


  • From at least the 14th century onward the marriage age of men averaged about 26 years and women generally married at 23.


  • Rates of lifetime celibacy never fell below 10 percent and sometimes went as high as 20 percent.


  • Before the 20th century infant mortality ranged for 15 to 30 percent and half or more died before age 20.


  • From the 14th to 19th centuries women had a average 4 to 6 children.


  • 17 percent of children were fatherless by age 10, and 27 percent by age 15.


  • One-half to two-thirds of women had lost their father by their marriage in their mid-twenties.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the last factoid. Women lost their fathers by their own marriages in their mid-twenties? How does a marriage mean a loss? Cheers, BT

JDR said...

BT: That's brides who did not have a living father to walk them down the aisle.

Elizabeth said...

Could the quoted figures re infant and childhood mortality be used to refine the estimates of the numbers of cousins we can expect to have, as per one of your recent blogs?