Worlds within worlds: Structures of life in sixteenth-century London

Download Worlds within worlds: Structures of life in sixteenth-century London

Post on 03-Jan-2017

215 views

Category:

Documents

2 download

Embed Size (px)

TRANSCRIPT

<ul><li><p>REVIEWS 341 </p><p>blueprint, let alone a full analysis, of such wide-ranging themes. This is a prolegomenon to a full-scale study at which Professor Wrigley hints in his introduction. We await that eagerly. Meanwhile we are grateful for a cogently argued, clearly, often vividly written and original review of a complex and fundamental theme. Anyone interested in the development of modern England will benefit from reading it and will surely find in it stimulus for their own specialist research or teaching. </p><p>Universities of Liverpool and Loughborough R. LAWTON </p><p>STEVE RAPPAPORT, Worlds Within Worlak Structures of Life in Sixteenth-century London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Pp. xv + 449. E35.00) </p><p>This study is a most formidable contribution to the thesis that early-modern London was blessed with a well-ordered society in which suffering and conflict were absorbed and controlled. Steve Rappaports focus of attention is the world of the London companies whose records he systematically exploits to explore the economy and society of the capital. He divides his study into chapters on dynamic forces which might be expected to have promoted instability, population growth, the state of the London economy, and the deteriorating standard of living of the period, and three more on the substructure of society, on inequality, and on social (i.e. career) mobility. He contends that the destabilizing forces were not as strong as is sometimes assumed, and that poverty and inequality were accepted and made bearable by the reasonable expectation of most traders and craftsmen of progressing to economic independence, if not great wealth, within their companies. To substantiate this last contention the lives of 530 men made free in 155 l-53 (a rare period for which admissions registers survive) are followed through the career stages of apprentice, journeyman, householder, liveryman and assistant. </p><p>What is most impressive about the study is the very careful measurement of economic and social data. We learn, for example, very specific details of apprentices: that there were 7,250 (10 per cent of the population) in 1550; that 90 per cent were immigrants, their average journey to London 115 miles; that only 41 per cent finished their term to become free. And such precision follows them after they became citizens: three-quarters of the adult male population of London were freemen; the average age of attaining freedom was 26 years, the average age of setting up an independent household 28.4; that 18 per cent of these independent masters joined the livery of their company, and so on. Not least impressive are price and wage indices which allow an exact expression of the mild fall in real wages of 29 per cent in sixteenth-century London. Together with the unobtrusive use of statistical measures and useful graphs such detail means we gain, for the first time, a clear idea of the average life experience (and the range of experience) of company men. </p><p>In view of this skilful work it may seem carping to point out that the study leaves out the experience of the quarter of the male workforce who were not freemen, and by 1600 the quarter of Londoners who lived in the suburbs, many not company men. The omission of such substantial proportions is important since Rappaports major argu- ment for social cohesion within London society rests on the expectation of advancement only of men within companies. What about the expectations of over one third of men (not to mention women) in the capital outside companies? Would their expectations be lower, and their behaviour less compliant? Perhaps not, since, as the book argues, there was very little public disorder in sixteenth-century London. The whole thesis about a well-ordered London society rests heavily on the infrequency of disorder in the capital. It is as though one can argue for positive harmony in an urban community largely because of the absence of the most extreme form of protest. But people can accommodate to considerable dislocation and hardship yet stop short of overt protest. It is a lesson many British people learned in the 1980s to pick the nearest if not the best example of this truth. Rappaports strident dismissal of historians of London social crisis, such as Lee </p></li><li><p>348 REVIEWS </p><p>Beier, on the evidence of company records, which reflect the life experience of the most stable and assimilated men in the population, is surely overdone. That said, it is clear that the majority of the working population of sixteenth-century London was able to adjust to the fluctuating economic conditions of the time, and it has become much more difficult to argue a crisis model of London life. And for that substantial shift in historical perception we must credit Rappaports able historical analysis. </p><p>University of Liverpool M. J. POWER </p><p>CAROL DYHOUSE, Feminism and the Family in England, 1880-1939 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989. Pp. 204. f30.00 and f8.95 paperback) </p><p>The author intends to explore some of the ways in which feminists challenged the family on both the personal and political level during the period 1880-1939. There are chapters on the economic independence of women, domestic organization and marital relationships. Dyhouse draws on a wide range of autobiographies, literary sources, and contemporary accounts, mostly written by feminists, and she uses these to trace the development of feminist thinking. The book has much less to say about the impact that these ideas had, or how the everyday experiences of women may have changed as a result of the development of feminist ideas. But within its own terms of reference the book is informative, well-written and highly readable. It also raises many issues which are still relevant today. </p><p>Following a brief definition and review of the main strands of feminist thought, Carol Dyhouse uses chapter one to sketch the main elements of family life as experienced by women 188G1939. Her account emphasizes the restricted and protected environment in which many women lived and she highlights problems of relationships with kin, attitudes to female education and marriage. Due to the inevitable bias of her sources, as in other sections of the book, the account which she gives is based heavily upon middle-class experiences of family life. Dyhouse recognises this problem, and does try to restore the balance on several occasions-most notably in the conclusion-but the overall picture relates mainly to the experiences of middle-class women. Chapter two deals with the economic independence of women and emphasizes the ways in which nineteenth-century feminists recognized the need for economic independence for married women as well as the development of career opportunities for single women. Whereas middle-class women were often trapped within the family, and prevented from working, working-class women were burdened with heavy duties both within and outside the home. The chapter also deals with the campaign for family allowances, highlighting the role of Eleanor Rathbone. </p><p>Chapter three focuses on feminist attitudes to domestic organization, highlighting the gulf between middle-class and working-class experiences of domesticity. Dyhouse examines socialist treatises on household reorganization, including cooperative arrange- ments, and briefly deals with attitudes towards the role of men in domestic work. In chapter four, the position of women within marriage is discussed, and particularly the concept of a woman as her husbands property. Dyhouse argues that the position of women was worsened due to a lack of knowledge about sex and reproduction. She also examines feminist attitudes to birth control and the developing awareness among feminists of female sexual pleasure. In conclusion, Carol Dyhouse focuses on the difficulty of getting feminist ideas to bridge the class divide, and also on the growing influence of socialist and marxist ideas on feminist thought. She argues that feminism as a political movement lost focus after women were given the vote, and suggests that this is one reason why many of the ideals of the early feminists have not been fully realized. </p><p>The main general criticism that I have of the book is that, although it provides a readable summary of the development of feminist ideas, too often the text reports ideas without fully analysing the context of their development or their impact on women and families. From a geographers perspective the book is also disappointing because it fails </p></li></ul>