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Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England$
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Alexandra Shepard

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299348

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299348.001.0001

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Credit, Provision, and Worth

Credit, Provision, and Worth

(p.186) 7 Credit, Provision, and Worth
Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England


Oxford University Press

Focusing on debt litigation, this chapter confirms the extent to which male status was competitively gauged. Patriarchal imperatives of male provision and self-sufficient mastery were regularly invoked, demonstrating that appraisals of manhood rooted in economic independence, and heading and maintaining a household, were commonplace. However, evidence of women and children's extensive (and sometimes primary) contributions to the household economy suggests that patriarchal manhood in these terms was a privilege which many men could not afford, if not a chimera. In addition, from the late sixteenth century, increasing numbers of men and women were either excluded from householding positions or chose to adopt alternative family strategies. For these men and women patriarchal behavioural codes were irrelevant, except as the substance of social critiques levelled by their ‘betters’, suggesting the emergence of deepening fissures between concepts of manhood along class lines.

Keywords:   debt, credit, provision, household economy, women's work, children's work

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