Women and children first

Rosalind Mitchison

  • Wet Nursing: A History from Antiquity to the Present by Valerie Fildes
    Blackwell, 300 pp, £19.50, September 1988, ISBN 0 631 15831 6
  • Women and Marriage in 19th-Century England by Joan Perkin
    Routledge, 342 pp, £30.00, December 1988, ISBN 0 415 00771 2
  • Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in Britain 1660-1760 by Lorna Weatherill
    Routledge, 252 pp, £30.00, July 1988, ISBN 0 415 00723 2
  • Childhood in 19th-Century France: Work, Health and Education among the ‘Classes Populaires’ by Colin Heywood
    Cambridge, 350 pp, £30.00, September 1988, ISBN 0 521 35038 7

Geography is about maps and history is about chaps – someone must have been very pleased with himself for producing this snappy definition. But traditionally history wasn’t simply about chaps: it was about chaps in power, the men who ran politics, the Church, the banks, and any other institution considered important. Women, and even children, might be allowed onto the scene for dynastic reasons. Women might also, if celibate, make it to sainthood. In the late 19th century it was recognised that there was also labour history, almost entirely male, and a kind of social history based on the households and concerns of noble families. Only recently has the greater part of the human race, women and children, made it into history, and even now there are historians and politicians striving to keep them out.

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