Date of this Version
Susan Dwyer Amussen has produced an extremely well-researched and gracefully written study on gender and class in early modern England. Amussen describes her work as in part a response to and continuation of the issues raised by the early classic study of Alice Clark, Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century. Amussen argues that "Clark's mistaken placement of the change from household to capitalist production in the seventeenth cen- tury - at least a century before it actually took place - makes it incumbent on students of early modern England to continue to study the family as the fundamental economic unit of society in that period" (p. 1). But Amussen's work, with its emphasis on the family in many aspects, goes far beyond the questions asked by Clark. Amussen also continues the argument of many early modern historians that the family in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England was not only the basic unit of political and social order, but also served as a metaphor for the state. ... Amussen's work is valuable reading for any student of early modern England. She demonstrates the connection between high politics and the social order of the villages. The construction of the world in the eighteenth century can be more thoroughly understood by the contrast with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the ways in which order was maintained in the family and the village. Also in this period the order within the family was a reflection of the attempt at order within the state. Amussen's study helps us to understand the development of the conception of public as opposed to private in terms of family and the state.