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9-08-2015, 17:11


The “rise of the individual” is often viewed as one of the key themes of European history beginning with the Renaissance – or even earlier – but research has also shown the continued importance of noble status and family connections through the eighteenth century – or even later. In many countries, wealthy middle-class men often bought noble titles, which gave them privileges such as freedom from taxation, or they married their daughters into noble families. Thus the social structure was not rigid, although both middle-class and upper-class people tried to reinforce distinctions between social groups with sumptuary laws regulating dress, and more complex codes of behavior and manners. Literate people often spent time each day writing letters, which were delivered through the new private and public postal services, and if the writer was witty or important enough, copied and read by many. These letters, combined with other types of personal sources such as diaries and journals, provide insight into people’s thoughts and emotions, although they were always written with a wider audience in mind so are not strictly private. Personal sources reveal that the idea developed several decades ago by historians that family life was cold and unfeeling in this era is not uniformly true, for there is much evidence of love and affection. Early modern physicians and anatomists studied the body to examine physical processes and the ways these connected with the mind and soul. In some places public health measures, such as quarantining or the disposal of waste, slowed down the spread of such diseases, but their impact was limited and devastating outbreaks of such diseases continued. Most childbirths were handled by female midwives, who were trained professionally in the larger cities and varied in their techniques to handle births. Certain forms of sexual behavior, including pregnancy out of wedlock, prostitution, and same-sex relationships, were increasingly criminalized, although the enforcement of sexual laws was intermittent and dependent on one’s social class and gender. In Robert Burton’s Melancholy , kingdoms that were sick were best treated by reforms chopping off the diseased parts, while leaving the head intact. Burton wrote in 1621, however. By the middle of the eighteenth century, new anatomical ideas had their political counterparts. As in the treatment of the physical body, visible proof and logical argument, rather than divine will or inherited tradition, became for some thinkers the best means of deciding whether the head should stay on the body politic. For Hobbes, with whom we began this chapter, the original contract between rulers and ruled was unbreakable and unchangeable; in his own time and country, however, and elsewhere in Europe somewhat later, others were far less sure. Affi rmations of the absolute power of kings were frequent and loud in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as we will see in the next chapter, but those minuscule men who made up the body of the nation in Leviathan were not always willing simply to perform their allotted function. QUESTIONS 1 How did the hierarchy of orders, in which nobles had status and privilege, intersect with the hierarchy of wealth in early modern Europe? 2 What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using personal documents such as letters and diaries as historical sources for this era? Do these still apply when using personal documents to study more recent periods, or are there other issues? 3 What did early modern people see as the connections between illness and the emotions? What changes and continuities do you see in how these connections are viewed today? 4 How did the various schools of anatomy differ in their views of the way the body operates? 5 How did the treatment of disease change in early modern Europe, in terms of both individual treatment and broader public health measures? What accounts for these changes? 6 How did women seek to ensure successful childbirths in this era? 7 How were the consequences of giving birth out of wedlock, selling sex for money, or engaging in same-sex relations shaped by social class and gender? FURTHER READING David George Hale, The Body Politic: A Political Metaphor in Renaissance English Literature ( The Hague: Mouton, 1971), provides a solid, brief introduction to the issue. For general studies of orders and classes, see Susan Amussen, An Ordered Society: Gender and Class in Early Modern England ( Oxford : Oxford University Press , 1988); James B. Collins, Classes, Estates and Order in Early Modern Brittany ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1994); Steven Rappaport, Worlds within Worlds: Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century London ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1989). For the nobility and gentry, see Felicity Heal and Clive Holmes, The Gentry in England and Wales 1500–1700 ( Basingstoke, UK : Blackwell, 1994); Jonathan Dewald, The European Nobility, 1400–1800 ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1996); Ronald G. Asch, Nobility in Transition: Courtiers and Rebels in Britain and Europe, 1550–1700 ( London: Arnold , 2003); Jerzy Lukowski, The European Nobility in the Eighteenth Century ( London: Palgrave- Macmillan, 2003). On citizenship, see Charlotte C. Wells , Law and Citizenship in Early Modern France ( Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press , 1995). For the role of the family in urban society, see Katherine A. Lynch , Individuals, Families, and Communities in Europe, 1200–1800: The Urban Foundations of Western Society ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 2003). Rebecca Earle, ed., Epistolary Selves: Letters and Letter-Writers, 1600–1945 ( Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999), examines the culture of letter-writing, while Claire Tomalin’s Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self ( London: Knopf, 2002) is a fascinating biography. Roy Porter , Flesh in the Age of Reason: The Modern Foundations of Body and Soul ( New York :W. W. Norton , 2004), explores the development of new ideas about the moral, physical, and social self. Jerrold Siegel, The Idea of the Self: Thought and Experience in Western Europe since the Seventeenth Century ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 2005) argues that there are strong continuities in the ideas of the self over the past four centuries, and Dror Wahrman , The Making of the Modern Self: Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-Century England ( New Haven : Yale University Press , 2006) that there was a radical shift at the end of the eighteenth century. For a fascinating study of the ways in which early modern governments tried to regulate and control people’s presentation of themselves through identifi cation practices and documents, see Valentin Groebner , Who Are You? Identifi cation, Deception, and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe ( London: Zone Books , 2007). Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process, trans. Edmund Jephcott ( Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2000), is an excellent new English translation and edition. For a wonderfully illustrated look at the development of civility and many of the other topics discussed in this chapter, see Roger Chartier , ed., A History of Private Life, vol. III: Passions of the Renaissance, trans. Arthur Goldhammer ( Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press , 1989), which includes material from the fi fteenth through the eighteenth centuries. Further discussion of privacy can be found in Annik Pardailhé-Galabrun , The Birth of Intimacy: Privacy and Domestic Life in Early Modern Paris ( Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press , 1991). Michel Foucault’s idea of the “Great Confi nement” is developed especially in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan ( New York : Vintage , 1979). For anatomy, see Roger French and Andrew Wear , eds., The Medical Revolution of the Seventeenth Century ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1989). A more cultural approach is presented in Jonathan Sawday , The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture ( London: Routledge, 1995). Clara Pinto-Correia , The Ovary of Eve: Egg and Sperm and Preformation ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press , 1997), presents a fascinating and often funny look at an issue that greatly troubled early modern scientists. Mary Lindemann, Medicine and Society in Early Modern Europe, 2nd edn ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 2010), examines health and healing from a social and cultural perspective. For medical treatments, see Margaret Pelling, The Common Lot: Sickness, Medical Occupations and the Urban Poor in Early Modern England ( London: Longman, 1988); Carlo Cipolla, Miasmas and Disease: Public Health and the Environment in the Pre-Industrial Age (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1995); Colin Jones, The Charitable Imperative: Hospitals and Nursing in Ancien Régime and Revolutionary France ( London: Routledge, 1989). For childbirth, see Jacques Gélis, History of Childbirth: Fertility, Pregnancy, and Birth in Early Modern Europe, trans. Rosemary Morris ( London: Polity Press , 1991), and Hilary Marland, ed., The Art of Midwifery: Early Modern Midwives in Europe ( London: Routledge 1993). For an excellent study of the incarceration of women, see Sherrill Cohen, The Evolution of Women’s Asylums since 1500: From Refuges for Ex-Prostitutes to Shelters for Battered Women ( New York : Oxford University Press , 1992). For women’s sexual honor more generally, see Laura Gowing, Domestic Dangers: Women, Words, and Sex in Early Modern London ( Oxford : Clarendon Press , 1996). On infanticide, see Peter C. Hoffer and N. E. H. Hull, Murdering Mothers: Infanticide in England and New England, 1558–1803 ( New York : New York University Press , 1981). Louis Crompton’s massive Homosexuality and Civilization (Cambridge, MA : Belknap Press , 2003), includes extensive discussion of the early modern period, while Randolph Trumbach , Sex and the Gender Revolution, vol. I: Heterosexuality and the Third Gender in Enlightenment London ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press , 1998), focuses especially on new forms of same-sex relationships. Valerie Traub , The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 2002), explores the representation of female same-sex desire in many different types of texts. Robert Jütte, Poverty and Deviance in Early Modern Europe ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1994), looks at many types of social control, while Isabel V. Hull, Sexuality, State, and Civil Society in Germany, 1700–1815 ( Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press , 1996), is an important broad-based discussion of the ways in which control of sexuality fi gured in the development of the modern state. Sarah Maza, Private Lives and Public Affairs: The Causes Célèbres of Prerevolutionary France ( Berkeley: University of California Press , 1993), explores ways that public discussion of personal scandals involving monarchs and nobles politicized the French population. For more suggestions and links see the companion website www.cambridge.org/wiesnerhanks . NOTES 1 John Milton, Of Reformation Touching Church-Discipline in England, in The Works of John Milton, ed. Frank A. Patterson ( New York : Columbia University Press , 1931–8), vol. III, pt. 1, pp. 47–8. 2 James I, “ Speech of 1603 ,” in The Political Works of James I, ed. Charles H. McIlwain (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press , 1918), p. 272. 3 Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. A. R. Shilleto, 3 vols. ( London, 1896), vol. I, p. 87. 4 Quoted in Patricia Crawford , Women and Religion in England, 1500–1720 ( London: Routledge, 1993), p. 16. 5 Quoted and trans. in E. William Monter , Ritual, Myth and Magic in Early Modern Europe (Athens: Ohio University Press , 1983), p. 118.