1st Edition

Prosperity and Parenthood A Study of Family Planning among the Victorian Middle Classes

By J A Banks Copyright 1954
    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    First Published in 1954, Prosperity and Parenthood is a study of Victorian middle-class ideas about the standard of living, marriage, and the responsibilities of family life. The book begins by tracing the fall in fertility in the 1870s to a change in the middle-class conception of parenthood and goes on to show that the standard of living considerably expanded during the period of great prosperity, roughly 1850 to 1870.

    The author also gives a detailed study of what the middle classes considered appropriate for a civilized existence and ends by considering the “Great Depression” as a possible factor attacking the actual level of living and making it possible for the middle classes to maintain established standards only by cutting down the size of their families. This is an important historical reference work for students and scholars of sociology, sociology of family, British sociology, social history, and medical sociology.

    Acknowledgements 1. The Decline in Fertility 2. The Population Controversy 3. The ‘Proper’ Time to Marry 4. The Pattern of Expenditure 5. Domestic Assistance 6. The Paraphernalia of Gentility 7. Incomes 8. A Case Study- Anthony Trollope 9. The Eighteen Seventies and After 10. Birth Control and the Size of the Family 11. The Cost of Children 12. The Standard of Living and the Fall in Fertility Appendices Notes Subject Index Index of Persons, Organizations, Sources, etc.


    Joseph Ambrose Banks sociologist, born January 5, 1920; died November 13, 2005. He was the leading authority of his generation on the Victorian family and its rapid reduction in size. At the time of the publication of this book, he was at the University of Liverpool, the Department of social science.

    ‘The first of the trilogy, Prosperity and Parenthood (1954), remains the place for all serious students to start when addressing this subject, and is one of very few 50-year-old history books still in use…Banks showed how the middle classes were prey to escalating consumption aspirations - "the paraphernalia of gentility". He found that the rising costs of secondary education for children became a crucial element in this, leading to greatly delayed marriage and ultimately the resort to birth control within marriage.’

    - Simon Szreter, Obituary- Joe Banks, The Guardian, Wed 14 Dec 2005


    ‘His fascinating and original study of family planning in Victorian middle-class society subjects his own slogan and everybody else’s generalization to scholarly and systematic analysis. Mr. banks has not only shown where next to turn: he has set an example of how to write social history which is both disciplined and exciting.’

    - Asa Briggs, The New Statesman