Date of Award

2001

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

History

Advisor

David Nicholas

Committee Member

Thomas J. Kuehn

Committee Member

Roger Grant

Abstract

Did medieval families function on a nuclear or an extended level? This thesis will show that the families in urban Norwich, England in the Middle Ages worked, loved and played within strong nuclear families instead of floundering in a sea of extended relatives and neighbors. Using two books of deeds from the city of Norwich as well as the police records and other assorted information from the city, this paper will prove that nuclear family relationships, with their economic and social bonds, were of primary importance to the functionality of the conjugal family and that much less focus was centered on the outside community and the network of extended kin. The first chapter will look at the city of Norwich and introduce the sources and the topic. The second chapter will examine the husband/wife relationship and how it contributed to the strength of the nuclear family and its concentration of the success of its primary members. The third chapter looks at the bonds that existed between parents and their children and between siblings. The fourth chapter proves that widows sought either to remain independent from these medieval families out of a desire to retain their property, or they remarried and joined another family, which strengthened the conjugal family bonds by defining more distinctly the members of the core family as opposed to those who were considered outsideres. The fifth chapter shows how the nuclear family interacted with its network of relatives, both by blood and by marriage, as well as the outside community of neighbors and fellow citizens. The final chapter summarizes the argument that the conjugal relations between husbands and wives and parents and children were of primary importance in medieval Norwich and that these relationships were more important than those of the extended family and outside community. This is the first time that these records have been used to prove the close nuclear family ties that existed in one particular urban environment, and this thesis provides a valuable look at specific examples of functional and active medieval conjugal families.

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