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This thesis examines English household literature of the sixteenth century to assess normative patterns of masculinity and patriarchy. Throughout that century, in spite of prolific changes having occurred in the realm of English material and intellectual culture, the patterns of masculinity observed in these texts show a remarkable pattern of consistency. This lack of change is in keeping with the works of other historians who have argued that the most salient feature of the norms of English masculinity throughout the early modern period was in fact continuity. Chapter one of this thesis shows how this body of literature prescribed access to and control of labor and capital as necessary requirements for patriarchal status. If a man lacked a sufficient workforce (composed of himself, his family, and his servants) or if he lacked the material means to support himself and his dependents, he was barred from the hegemonic group of householding males. Chapter two demonstrates that the requirements for the elevated social status of householder were not merely physical. There was also a set of moral attributes and intellectual requirements that allowed for the challenging of the manhood and patriarchal masculinity of men of other social classes. The ideal householder of these works had to be thrifty, discrete, and respectable. Not only this, he also had to be an instructor in these values to both the children and adult members of his household. This allowed for the challenging of the full social adulthood of wives, servants, apprentices, and adult children within the household. Chapter three examines the ways in which this code of manhood determined the value to other members of the household: centrally, wives and servants. Within these works, wives held a far greater social standing within the household: often far greater than many adult men who were seen as a moral threat to the household or as being totally dependent on the husband and wife, who were to run the house as a governor and lieutenant-governor. The system of patriarchy outlined in this thesis challenges the significance of the role of sex in the formation of power structures in Early Modern England, suggesting instead that socio-economic factors played at least as significant a role in shaping an individual’s social rank as did biological sex.
Howard, Conor, "Idealizing Patriarchy: Patterns of Hierarchy and Patriarchal Values in English Household Literature, 1520-1600" (2016). Honors Theses. 2854.
Honors Thesis-Open Access