Non-Fiction Books:

Parents of Poor Children in England 1580-1800



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Parents of Poor Children in England 1580-1800 by Patricia Crawford
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Parents of Poor Children is the first sustained study of the mothers and fathers of poor children in the England of the early modern and early industrial period. Although we know a good deal about the family life of monarchs in this period, much less is known about what life was like for poor single mothers, or for ordinary people who were trying to bring up their children. What were poor mothers and fathers trying to achieve, and what support did they have from their society, especially from the welfare system? Patricia Crawford attempts to answer these important questions, in order to illuminate the experience of parenting at this time from the perspective of the poor, a group who have naturally left little in the way of literary testimony. In doing this, she draws upon a wide range of archival material, including quarter session records, petitions for assistance, applications for places in the London Foundling Hospital, and evidence from criminal trials in London's Old Bailey. England in this period had a developing system of welfare, unique in Europe, by which parish rates were collected and administered to those deemed worthy of relief. The 'civic fathers' who administered this welfare drew upon a code of fatherhood framed in the Elizabethan period, by which a patriarch took responsibility for maintaining and exercising authority over wives and children. But, as Patricia Crawford shows, this code of family conduct was the product of a material world completely alien to that which the poor inhabited. Parents of the poor were different from those of middling and elite status. Poverty, not property, dictated their relationships with their children. Poor families were frequently broken by death. Fathers were frequently absent, and mothers had to rear their children with whatever forms of relief they could find.

Author Biography

Patricia Crawford taught history at the University of Western Australia. She is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. She is the author of a number of books on early modern England, including (with Sara Mendelson) Women in Early Modern England, also published by Oxford University Press.
Release date Australia
January 14th, 2010
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
23 black and white halftones
Oxford University Press
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