3rd Edition

Family Fortunes Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780–1850

By Leonore Davidoff, Catherine Hall Copyright 2019
    628 Pages
    by Routledge

    628 Pages
    by Routledge

    First published to wide critical acclaim in 1987, Family Fortunes has become a seminal text in class and gender history, and its influence in the field continues to be extensive today.

    The book explores the middle-class family and its place in the development of capitalist society. It argues that gender and class need to be thought about together – that class was always gendered and gender always classed. Divided into three parts, the book covers religion and ideology, economic structure and opportunity, and gender in action across two main case studies: the rural counties of Suffolk and Essex and the industrial town of Birmingham. This third edition contains a new introductory section by Catherine Hall, reflecting on some of the major developments in historical thinking over the last fifteen years and discussing the evolution of key themes such as the family.

    Providing critical insight into the perception of middle-class society and gender relations between 1780 and 1850, this volume is essential reading for students of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British social history.


    Introduction to the third edition



    Introducing James Luckcock of Birmingham – What was the English middle class? – Concepts and methods

    Setting the scene 

    Places: The town – Birmingham – The countryside – Essex and Suffolk

    People: The family shop – the Cadburys of Birmingham – The family pen – the Taylors of Essex



    1 ‘The one thing needful’: religion and the middle class 

    Church and chapel activity – The Evangelical revival and serious Christianity – Church against Dissent – The religious community

    2 ‘Ye are all one in Christ Jesus’: men, women and religion 

    Doctrines on manliness – Doctrines on femininity – The ministry – The minister’s wife – John Angell James: ‘bishop’ of Birmingham – Church organization: women voting and women speaking – Laymen and women

    3 ‘The nursery of virtue’: domestic ideology and the middle class 

    The Queen Caroline affair – Middle-class readers and writers – William Cowper and Hannah More – Local writers on separate spheres – Domestic ideologies of the 1830s and 1840s



    4 ‘A modest competency’: men, women and property 

    Enterprise organization – Land and capital – Enterprise finance – Providing for dependants – The interdependence of enterprise, family and friends – The role of marriage in the enterprise – Training for the enterprise – Retirement from the enterprise

    5 ‘A man must act’: men and the enterprise 

    Middle-class men and occupations – The search for a ‘sound commercial education’ – Commerce and trade – Banks and banking – Manufacture – Farming – The professions – The salaried

    6 ‘The hidden investment’: women and the enterprise 

    Women and property – Women’s contribution to the enterprise – The education of women and its effects – Women as teachers – Women as innkeepers – Women in trade – The marginal place of women in the economy – Women, men and occupation identity – How did women survive?



    7 ‘Our family is a little world’: family structure and relationships 

    The role of marriage in family formation – Fatherhood – Motherhood – Children – Brothers and sisters – The role of wider kin

    8 ‘My own fireside’: the creation of the middle-class home 

    What was a home? – The separation of home from work – The meaning of the garden – The lay-out of the home – Running the home – The question of servants

    9 ‘Lofty pine and clinging vine’: living with gender in the middle class 

    Manner and gentility – Changing attitudes to sexuality – Mobility and gender – Gender and the social occasion – Gender as appearance

    10 ‘Improving times’: men, women and the public sphere 

    James Bisset of Birmingham – Voluntary associations – Philanthropic societies – Leisure and pleasure – Men, women and citizenship



    1 Three poems by local authors – 2 Sources for the local study – 3 Tables

    Notes and references 

    Select bibliography 

    People index 

    Subject index 


    Leonore Davidoff (1932–2014) was Emerita Research Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex and Founding Editor of Gender and History. One of the most influential historians of gender, her numerous publications included Worlds Between: Historical Perspectives on Gender and Class (1995) and Thicker than Water: Siblings and their Relations (2012).

    Catherine Hall is Emerita Professor of History and Chair of the Centre for the Study of British Slave-ownership, UCL. Recent publications include Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain (2012) and with Nicholas Draper, Keith McClelland, Katie Donington and Rachel Lang, Legacies of British Slave-ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (2014).