HIS 341.01: Family Life in Early Modern Russia

D. Kaiser

Spring, 1994


Anderson, Michael. Approaches to the History of the Western Family 1500-1914. Atlantic Highlands: Humanities, 1986.

Wiesner, Merry E. Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.


This course will introduce the student to both the achievements and the problems of family history, particularly in early modern Russia. Much of our class time will be devoted to discussing strategies for recovering the history of the family in Russia. To that end we will read important works on early modern European family history, permitting us to discuss the methods as well as the results with which to compare Russia's experience. Finally, we will read both narrative and documentary sources with which one might write a history of the family in early modern Russia. Students who would like to do part of their work in Russian are encouraged to discuss their interests with the instructor as early as possible.

The seminar presumes successful completion of HIS 241 (or its equivalent). Students who encounter difficulty in locating our discussions against the relevant context in early modern Russia should consult with me right away in order to obtain suggested readings. The seminar also presumes considerable independent work; timely and responsible execution of the assignments is essential to the success of the class, since each of you will in fact be responsible for much of the class time at each meeting. Most class sessions will be devoted to discussion. In addition to the assigned reading, therefore, you will also be responsible for regularly taking part in discussion and for the following written assignments:

1. A brief (4-5 pp.) critical review of the family history book you read for February 9. Characterize the author's findings about family life in the early modern period (sixteenth to eighteenth centuries), and appraise the sources and methods employed. Be aware of the criticisms of different approaches as represented in Anderson, Segalen and Wiesner. DUE FEBRUARY 14 4 PM.

2. A brief (3-4 pp.) research proposal that examines some aspect of family life in early modern Russia (for example, the role of gender, kinship, "class" or other variable of interest to you). Make special mention of the sources you intend to use, and the methods of analysis you propose. This exercise is intended to assist you in planning your major paper (see point 3 below). DUE MARCH 16, at which time you will be responsible for presenting your proposal in class, and responding to observations and criticisms from others in class. In preparing your proposal you should consider the following questions:

a. What is my proposed thesis or hypothesis? (You might find it helpful to think about comparative findings from elsewhere in early modern Europe or perhaps from later Russia.)

b. What evidence will I use to demonstrate my thesis, and how shall I collect it? What are the limitations of the evidence? What are its strengths for my purposes?

c. What problems or constraints are apparent in implementing this plan of research?

3. A concluding major paper (10-15 pp.) in which you analyze some aspect of family life in early modern Russia (successful formulation of the research proposal above is key to success in the paper itself). You will be responsible for presenting your findings during a class session late in the semester, at which time you must submit the first version of the paper. The revised, final version of your paper is due no later than MAY 13 4 PM.

COURSE SCHEDULE (hatchmark [#] indicates that materials will be provided):

1/26 Considering the Problems and Approaches

Anderson, Approaches to the History of the Western Family (all)

#Peter Laslett, "Characteristics of the Western Family Considered Over Time," in idem, Family Life and Illicit Love in Earlier Generations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977) 12-48

2/2 Gender and Kinship

Wiesner, Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe 1-114, 239-58

#Martine Segalen, Historical Anthropology of the Family, trans. J. C. Whitehouse and Sarah Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) 1-72, 107-38

2/9 Family Life in Early Modern Europe


--Steven E. Ozment, When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983). HQ611 .O97 1983

--Lyndal Roper, The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). HQ1630 .A84 R67 1989


--Susan Dwyer Amussen, An Ordered Society: Gender and Class in Early Modern England (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988). HQ615 .A49 1988

--Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (NY: Harper and Row, 1977). HQ615 .S76 (better: find abridged paperback version)


--Philippe Ariès, Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life, trans. Robert Baldick (NY: Knopf, 1962). HQ792 .F7 A73

--Jean Louis Flandrin, Families in Former Times: Kinship, Household and Sexuality, trans. Richard Southern (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979). HQ623 .F5513

2/16 Family Life in Early Modern Russia: The Present State of Scholarship

#V. A. Aleksandrov, "Typology of the Russian Peasant Family in the Feudal Period," Soviet Studies in History [now Russian Studies in History] 21, no. 2 (Fall 1982):26-62.

#M. G. Rabinovich, "The Russian Urban Family at the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century," Soviet Studies in History [now Russian Studies in History] 21, no. 2 (Fall 1982):63-87.

#Daniel H. Kaiser, "The Seasonality of Family Life in Early Modern Russia," Forschungen zur osteuropäischen Geschichte 46(1991):21-50.

#Daniel H. Kaiser, "Urban Household Composition in Early Modern Russia," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 23, no. 1 (Summer 1992):39-71.

#Eve Levin, Sex and Society in the World of Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), pp. 83-126, 231-46, et al.

#M. G. Rabinovich, "The Wedding in the Sixteenth-Century Russian City," Soviet Anthropology and Archeology [now Anthropology and Archeology of Eurasia] 18, no.4 (Spring 1980):32-54; ibid., 20, no. 1 (Autumn 1981):55-72.

2/23 Sources for a History of Family Life in Early Modern Russia

#Selections from foreigners' accounts, dowries, wills, and population inventories

3/2 How to Write a History of the Family in Early Modern Russia?

Issues, Sources and Strategies



************S P R I N G B R E A K**************

4/6 Consultations

4/13 Consultations

4/20 Consultations

4/27 Consultations

5/4 Paper Presentations

5/11 Paper Presentations