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BA History and French / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Love and Power: Family Relationships in the British Isles, c. 1660-1837

Unit code HIST32052
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


The family is one of the key sites for the operation of power, emotion and inequality in society. In this module we will look at how ordinary people navigated some of the most central relationships in their lives, including siblinghood, marriage, parenthood and kinship. The module challenges assumptions that families in the past were neat, orderly and nuclear, to question whether family types such as single parent, mixed-race, foster, and same-sex families were included in ideals of family life. We will investigate the extent to which the personal was political, and use family relationships as a way of interrogating wider social, economic and cultural change. You will learn about the history of emotions, and the uses of family history as public history in the present. This course includes a family history project. You will use online primary sources to build a family tree, investigate the methods historians use to uncover emotional relationships, and think critically about how archival survival reflects continuing power inbalances.  


HIST32052 is only available to students on History-owned programmes; CLAH-owned programmes; and History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas (please check your programme structure for further details).


  • To enable students to understand long-term change in the history of the family, and evaluate arguments of the decline of kinship and the rise of the companionate nuclear family.
  • To encourage students to critically examine the methodologies of researching family and personal life,  including demography, the history of emotions and the ethics of family history. Particular attention will be paid to inequalities in the recording of family relationships in the past and access to records in the present according to race, class,  gender, and the colonial contexts of archives.
  • To enable students to understand the connection between family life and the broader social and cultural history of a society, including family relationships as constituents of class identity and the role of the family in policing gender, birth status and race.


Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the significance of familial relationships in the lives of eighteenth-century individuals, including their emotional, economic and social impact.
  • Assess the extent to which family life changed over the eighteenth century, and what this tells us about broader social and cultural change.
  • Explain how the family acted as a site for the replication of power and inequality in the eighteenth century, and evaluate the extent to which these issues remain in the practice of family history and genealogy in the present.
  • Understand how race, socio-economic status, gender or sexuality could affect experiences of family life and issues of familial identity.


Intellectual skills

  • Critically evaluate the range of methodologies used to investigate family life, including demography and family reconstitution, economic history, the history of emotions, or the history of poverty and socio-economic class.
  • Understand the difficulties in researching personal relationships, and the range of print, manuscript, visual and material sources that can be used.
  • Critically assess the relationship between family life, structures of power and inequality, and processes of social change in past societies.


Practical skills

  • Develop written and oral communication skills, including researching and structuring essays, debates and presentations.
  • Evaluate a range of primary sources and secondary literature, including from other disciplines such as sociology and anthropology.
  • Plan and execute an independent research project, utilising a range of research skills including using online resources and databases, e.g. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Find My Past or London Lives.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • The ability to assess the quality, reliability and significance of different types of information
  • Confidence in written and oral communication
  • Successfully direct and complete an independent research project, and be able to reflect and learn from their experience.
  • A strong understanding of the ethics and social responsibility of family historians and its place as public history in the present.


Employability skills

¿ Independent learning, project work, effective oral and written communication. ¿ The ability to research and critically analyse material from a range of sources to produce compelling and concise arguments. ¿ The public history aspect of this module will develop students¿ understanding of family history as a global commodity, its ethical implications, inequalities of access according to class, race and the colonial past, and its relationship with media, heritage and politics.

Assessment methods

Family history project 50%
Essay 50%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

One-to-one feedback on weekly seminar activities during office hours or by prior appointment


Written feedback on family history project and essay



Recommended reading

  • Barker, Hannah, Family and Business during the Industrial Revolution (Oxford, 2017)
  • Berry, Helen and Elizabeth Foyster (eds), The Family in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2007)
  • Broomhall, Susan, (ed.), Emotions in the Household, 1200-1900 (Basingstoke, 2008)
  • Evans, Tanya, ‘Secrets and Lies: The Radical Potential of Family History’, History Workshop Journal 71.1 (2011), pp. 49-73
  • Hunt, Margaret, The Middling Sort: Commerce, Gender, and the Family in England, 1680-1780 (Berkeley, 1996)
  • Tadmor, Naomi, ‘Early Modern English Kinship in the Long Run: Reflections on Continuity and Change’, Continuity and Change 25.1 (2010), pp. 15-48
  • Tadmor, Naomi, Family and Friends in Eighteenth-Century England: Household, Kinship, Patronage (Cambridge, 2001)
  • Alannah Tomkins and Steven King (eds), The Poor in England, 1700-1850, An Economy of Makeshifts (Manchester, 2003), esp. chapter 7
  • An episode of A House Through Time (BBC) or Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC).

Have a look at an episode of your choice, but think about why this particular story is being told, the sources used and the impact of the research on the subject or you as the audience.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Kate Gibson Unit coordinator

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