Kinship and Capitalism: Marriage, Family, and Business in the English-speaking World, 1580-1740
This uncompromisingly empirical study reconstructs the public and private lives of urban business families during the period of England’s emergence as a world economic power. Using a broad cross-section of archival, rather than literary, sources, it tests the orthodox view that the family as an institution was transformed by capitalism and individualism. The approach is both quantitative and qualitative. A database of 28,000 families has been constructed to tackle questions such as demographic structure, kinship, and inheritance, which must be answered statistically. Much of the book, however, focuses on issues such as courtship and relations among spouses, parents, and children, which can only be studied through those families that have left intimate records. The overall conclusion is that none of the abstract models invented to explain the historical development of the family withstand empirical scrutiny and that familial capitalism, not possessive individualism, was the motor of economic growth.