Spatial construction of European family and household systems: a promising path or a blind alley? An Eastern European perspective
Continuity and Change, 27:1, 11–52 (2012)
This essay represents an attempt at a re-examination of the Western scientific evidence for the existence of the divergent ‘Eastern European family pattern’. This evidence is challenged by almost entirely unknown contributions of Eastern European scholars, revealing the stark incompatibility of the two discourses. This paper is informed to a large extent by Richard Wall’s voluminous research on European household and family systems. Wall’s original observation of non-negligible spatial variation within the supposedly homogeneous North-Western European marriage and family pattern is used here as a starting point to show the true diversity of familial organisation in Eastern Europe, which had been placed at the other end of the spectrum of what was long believed to be a dichotomous division in European family systems. The diversity of family forms and the rhythms of their development in historical Eastern Europe presented in this literature should finally free us from a simplistic view of the continent’s familial history, and especially from the perspective implied by the notion of a ‘dividing line’.
Keywords: Europe, historical demography