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The Child We Once Were

  • Rudolf Dekker
Chapter
Part of the Early Modern History: Society and Culture book series

Abstract

Around 1800 the autobiography as a genre underwent fundamental changes. One of these was that authors paid more attention to their youth. Before the nineteenth century they hardly thought their early years worth mentioning. Instead, they often wrote in great detail about their ancestors. Gerard Schepens can serve as an example. Born in 1556, he started off as a merchant in Dordrecht and later became a Reformed minister. His life-story starts when at the age of 16, he was sent to England to learn the wool trade. He was silent about his early years, but dwelled extensively on his ancestors and a wide circle of relatives. Around 1800 a new type of autobiography developed. In the traditional model the author tells us a lot about his family background, and less or nothing about his youth. He primarily sees himself as a link in a family lineage. In the modern model the author is brief about his forefathers, but dwells on his early years. The ego has become the centre of the text, as an expression of growing individualism.

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Notes

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Copyright information

© Uitgeverij Wereldbibliotheek BV 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rudolf Dekker
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of History and ArtErasmus University RotterdamThe Netherlands

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