This book addresses the question of what world history looks like when the family is at the center of the story. People have always lived in families, but what that means has varied dramatically over time and across cultures. The family is not a "natural" phenomenon—it has a history. And family life is not limited to the realm of the private or the strictly personal; the family is a force of history. Gender and generational differences affect how individual family members relate to each other and how the family operates in changing historical times. For example, youth rebellion against repressive elders fed into choices about conversion to Christianity in colonial Kenya in the early twentieth century and also into the May Fourth rebellion against traditional rule in China in 1919.These are the sorts of examples that drive the narrative of The Family: A World History. Maynes and Waltner begin their story more than 10,000 years ago with various projects of domestication around the globe - different ways of inventing human settlement and explaining and attempting to control the natural world. The authors then examine how family systems and family practices help to account for the historical fate of different world regions in the era of growing world trade, colonization, and religious warfare and conversions between 1450 and 1750. They make connections between economic, political, and cultural modernity and the transformation of family and gender relationships between 1750 and 1920. Finally, they demonstrate that the struggle over family relations was central to fascist and colonial regimes, Cold War era ideological and economic confrontations, and post-World-War II antagonisms between 'developed' and 'underdeveloped' nations, and, more recently, between the global North and the global South. The narrative concludes with such contemporary realities as transcontinental family life, state programs of genocide, and innovative reproductive technologies. Taking a long and broad view of the family as a force of history brings to light processes of human development and patterns of social life that are missed by narrower investigations. This book on the family is thus also engaged in a larger conversation about what it means to be human, and how a very expansive temporal and geographic frame of history brings new insights into the human past and present. Maynes and Waltner draw on a wide range of historical sources including legal codes, census records, memoirs, art, and oral history.
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