Disordered Lives

Disordered Lives : Eighteenth-Century Families and Their Unruly Families

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How did people in the past cope with breakdown of family life? How did families deal with unbearable or unmanageable relatives? Why did families request that some of their members be forcibly removed from their midst and locked away? What social conditions lay behind the drama of enforced removal and confinement that was played out between family members and their unruly relatives. This book shows that there was a close connection between processes of social transformation and changes in ways of thinking about uncontrollable behaviour. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, urban society was coming increasingly under pressure. The growing social problems had repercussions on families, which were being torn apart by internal conflicts while the usual channels for resolving them were blocked. This was translated into feelings of uncertainty and fear, which raised the thresholds of intolerance towards the unruly practices of housemates, relatives and neighbours. The enforced confinement of the uncontrollable person could, in such circumstances, be the only way of restoring peace, both within the family and within the broader community. Through their analysis of thousands of case histories in Brabant and Flanders the authors are able to shed light on the material and emotional survival strategies of the growing numbers of urban families who were requesting the confinement of one of their own members, and to relate those personal decisions to the changes taking place within the urban communities. "Disordered Lives" is a penetrating study of rebellious youths, adulterous women, alcoholics and violent husbands. In contrast to other 'troublemakers' who have left no trace, these ones have made history. They showed their contemporaries and later generations where the limits of the permissible lay, and why.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 25.4mm | 465g
  • Polity Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0
  • 0745615147
  • 9780745615141

Table of contents

List of Plates. Introduction. 1. Confinement Requested. 2. Unruly Living. 3. Rich Kids, Street Boys and Little Whores. 4. Marriages Made in Hell. 5. The Eyes of Others. 6. The Language of Authority. 7. Sledge-Hammers and Treadmills. Epilogue: Power and Powerlessness. Notes. Sources and Literature. Index.show more

Review quote

"This book is an extraordinary testimony to the power of those in authority in the past - including magistrates and parents - to deprive the disobedient, dissipated, debauched, dishonourable and just plain difficult of their civil liberties. For most modern readers, as for some of the victims of the behaviour described, this is truly what the authors describe as 'a glimpse of hell through the keyhole'." Rab Houston, University of St Andrews "Catharina Lis and Hugo Soly develop a fresh approach to the history of confinement, which Michel Foucault had linked primarily to the idea of the State. They refocus the analysis on everyday life, subtly exploring the reactions of ordinary families confronted with the processes of economic and social change in the large towns of the Austrian Netherlands in the eighteenth century. Their work is a brilliant example of the social history of human behaviour from below." Robert Muchembled, Universite de Paris-Nord "A book whose title entirely fails to do justice to the breadth and depth of its interest ... This powerful book is an invaluable addition to the studies by Garrioch and Farge of the social and cultural impact of industrialization in eighteenth-century west European cities." Economic History Review "Disordered Lives provides a broad and plausible picture of confinement on request and successfully places private confinement in a social context." International Review of Social Historyshow more

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