Historical Development of the Household in Europe

  • Richard Wall
Part of the The Plenum Series on Demographic Methods and Population Analysis book series (PSDE)


In this chapter the attempts of John Hajnal and Peter Laslett to conceptualize the family and household systems of Europe as they existed in the past are reviewed and then extended on the basis of the following criteria: the welfare capability of the family, the household as a work unit, the status of women within the family, the patterns of marriage and household formation, the household as a kin group, and inequalities between households. National and local censuses are then analysed to reveal the extent of the variation in household and family forms that prevailed across much of Europe in the past, a diversity that, when measured at the national or regional level, appears to have lessened in recent years, without entirely vanishing. Finally, the process of change in the composition of households in England between the seventeenth century and the present day is examined in detail, and causes for those changes are suggested. It is argued that economic factors largely account for the decline between pre-industrial times in the frequency of co-residence with non-relatives (principally servants), and the decline between 1891 and 1981 in the frequency of living with relatives in the absence of a spouse and child. There is also evidence that membership of a family group, comprising a couple or a parent and child, was more common in 1981 than in either 1891 or before 1800. The differences, however, are not large, leading to the conclusion that in England there has been a considerable degree of continuity between past and present in the frequency with which individuals reside in family groups.


Household Head Family System Parental Home Household Structure Lone Parent 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Wall
    • 1
  1. 1.Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social StructureCambridgeEngland

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