The Family: A World History

ISBN : 9780195338140

Mary Jo Maynes; Ann Waltner
168 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jul 2012
New Oxford World History
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  • Places family and household dynamics at the center of historical transformation
  • Covers a broad chronological and geographic scope
  • Pays close attention to a variety of historical sources and approaches
  • Uses specific examples to make a broad general argument
  • includes maps and illustrations

People have always lived in families, but what that means has varied dramatically across time and cultures. The family is not a "natural" phenomenon but an institution with a dynamic history stretching 10,000 years into the past. Mary Jo Maynes and Ann Waltner tell the story of this fundamental unit from the beginnings of domestication and human settlement. They consider the codification of rules governing marriage in societies around the ancient world, the changing conceptions of family wrought by the heightened pace of colonialism and globalization in the modern world, and how state policies shape families today. 
The authors illustrate ways in which differences in gender and generation have affected family relations over the millennia. Cooperation between family members--by birth or marriage--has driven expansions of power and fusions of culture in times and places as different as ancient Mesopotamia, where kings' daughters became priestesses who mediated among the various cultures and religions of their fathers' kingdom, and sixteenth-century Mexico, in which alliances between Spanish men and indigenous women variously allowed for consolidation of colonial power or empowered resistance to colonial rule. But family discord has also driven - and been driven by - historical events such as China's 1919 May Fourth Movement, in which young people seeking an end to patriarchal authority were key participants. 
Maynes's and Waltner's view of the family as a force of history brings to light processes of human development and patterns of social life and allows for new insights into the human past and present.


Editors' Preface
1. Domestic Life and Human Origins 
2. The Birth of the Gods: Family in the Emergence of Religions and Cosmologies
3. Ruling Families: Kinship at the Dawn of Politics (3000 BCE to 1450 CE)
4. Family Dynamics in a Global Frame (1400-1750)
5. Families in Global Markets (1600-1850)
6. Families in Revolutionary Times (1750-1920)
7. Powers of Life and Death: Families in the Era of State Population Management (1880 to the Present)
Epilogue: The Future of the Family
Further Reading

About the author: 

Mary Jo Maynes is professor of history at the University of Minnesota. Her recent books include Telling Stories: The Use of Personal Narratives in the Social Sciences and Historyand Secret Gardens, Satanic Mills: Placing Girls in European History
Ann Waltner is professor of history and director of the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota. She is a former editor of the Journal of Asian Studies and author of Getting an Heir: Adoption and the Construction of Kinship in Late Imperial China.

"Maynes and Waltner are well-known historians of gender, childhood and family, and the two combine forces here to cover the issue of family across time and space. The book has an ambitious scope...[and] it accomplishes its goal of putting family at the center of the narrative of world history."--Middle Ground Journal

"This is a concise and well-organized survey of how families, broadly understood, have shaped and been shaped by historical forces from the beginning of recorded history to the present....The notion that the family, just like the nation-state, is a historical, human construct may strike many scholars as unremarkable, but for many teaching undergraduate survey courses in world history and global studies, this is perhaps one of the most critical, and difficult, ideas to convey to students....The volume's thesis, consistently argued throughout, and backed up with evidence from across the globe, is therefore an important contribution, particularly for those who care about undergraduate teaching."--Journal of Global History

"Mary Jo Maynes and Ann Waltner have authored a tightly written and succinct, yet admirably comprehensive, survey of family as a theme in world history. The Family in World History is one volume in the New Oxford World History series, edited by Bonnie G. Smith and Anand Yang, and, if this volume is characteristic of the quality of others in the series, both the editors and Oxford University Press are to be thanked for providing teachers and students with concise and effective treatments of themes in world history that represent the best current scholarship."--H-World

"This welcome addition to the New Oxford World History series examines both the history of the family as a social institution from Paleolithic times to the present and the ways in which the family has been an agent of historical change. With well-chosen illustrations and maps that locate all of the places discussed, this would be an excellent supplement for a world history survey. Highly Recommended."--CHOICE

"A thoughtful work that is part of an exciting series, the New Oxford World History. This is very much an American series and reflects the energy of that historical community. Pledged to offer a comprehensive world history that looks over a long timespan, this series provides the basis for an account of the family that begins in 10,000 BCE...[T]he scholarship is up to date, the judgments pertinent and the writing good. An impressive volume."--Jeremy Black, The Historian

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