Saturday, 27 August 2016

More or less?

Daily Draw: The Green Witch Tarot, Ten of Chalices/Cups
In Centuries of Childhood Philippe Ariès presents the thesis that the ‘concten challiceept of childhood’ is modern: a creation of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He argues that alongside the concept of childhood, childhood itself is subject to change in different historical circumstances.
In earlier times, according to Ariès, children were perceived as participants in adult society. He points to evidence that children shared the same amusements as adults and were dressed as mini-adults. Most controversially Ariès claimed that sentimental relations between parents and children were weakened by the frequency of child death.
Lawrence Stone’s enormous Family, Sex, and Marriage in England, 1500–1800 (1977) selling in huge numbers affirmed this thesis – high infant and child death rates and maternal mortality caused parents to love their children less. Only it wasn’t true…Stone made sweeping generalisations based on limited, anecdotal evidence.
Clarissa Atkinson’s and Barbara Hanawalt’s painstaking studies of of medieval motherhood, and children in fourteenth-century London respectively, revealed the complexity of past family relationships contradicting the notion of  premodern ‘indifference’. Linda Pollock examined hundreds of seventeenth diaries to support her claim that parents relations with their children were characterised by ‘modern’ qualities of profound sentiment.
The dairy of Ralph Josselin, vicar of Earls Colne, Essex, from 1641 until his death in 1683 provides the most wonderful insight into seventeenth century family life. Far from being numbed by sickness and death Josselin cared deeply for his wife and ‘babes’ frequently recording his anxieties about their state of health. The diary is a wonderful source of information on lay medicine. Over the years Josselin records his ailments large and small and their cures often in loving detail. He writes, ‘Stung I was with a bee on my nose, I presently pluckt out y sting and layd on honey, so that my face swelled not: thus divine providence reaches to the lowest things’.
There’s increasing support for the view that honey possesses antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Modern science has found useful applications of honey in chronic wound management. I have first hand experience of its healing effects. This makes me curious as to what other gems of family medical lore Josselin might have to offer us…His diary is referenced below. For those with more curiosity than cash I believe there is a freely available full text version available on the internet…
Thoughts on today’s post most welcome. Is this all a bit blah blah? More academic stuff? Or more stories using original sources?
Source for today’s post:
Josselin, R. Macfarlane, A. (1976) The diary of Ralph Josselin, 1616-1683, London : Oxford University Press for the British Academy.

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