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A glimpse of family life through the ages

Can you imagine a life without all the technology and convenience that we have today? Family life has changed so much through the centuries, shaped by culture and economics. Let’s take a look back through the ages to see how families handled their time together:

Family life in the Middle Ages (1500-1800)

Wheat In the 16th and 17th centuries most women were housewives and men worked on the land. For households in the country the wife was expected to bake the bread and brew the beer (it wasn’t safe to drink water). She was also responsible for salting and curing meat, making pickles, jellies and preserves (necessary for the time before the fridge!), make candles and soap, cook, wash the clothes and clean the house. The housewife also had to have a knowledge of medicine to be able to treat the family’s illnesses as only the wealthy could afford doctors.

In the 17th century privileged boys and girls went to infant school but only boys went to grammar school, girls were generally taught by tutors and learnt subjects such as music and needlework – it was considered important that girls learnt ‘accomplishments’ rather than study academic subjects. Poor children did not attend school and by the age of 6-7 were expected to work on the land.

Family life in the 19th Century

Industrial revolution Things didn’t look up for the family in the 19th century; the industrial revolution transformed life in Britain where families went from living and working in the countryside to living in towns and working in industry.

Working class women lived a life of endless hard work and drudgery with the industrial revolution creating a huge demand for child and female labour, with husbands becoming the stay-at-home carers. If they weren’t at home husbands had to work away in order to secure jobs, this is where ‘commuting’ began, whilst two world wars also meant that all men had to be an ‘army-workforce in waiting’.

Churches provided what little education there was for poor children, with the state refusing to take responsibility for education until 1870 when the Forsters Education Act insisted that schools should be provided for all children. (Picture source: Wikispaces)

Family life in the 20th Century

Thankfully things greatly improved in the 20th century with the family becoming healthier and better fed, clothed and educated.

Corporal punishment was phased out in most primary schools in the early 1970s, the cane was abolished in state secondary schools in 1987, and finally abolished in private schools in 1998.

In the early 20th century it was unusual for women to work, however this changed in the 1950s and 60s. New technology in the home made it easier for women to go out and work, before this the housework was so time consuming there wasn’t that option.

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Family life in the 21st Century

Technology has given us improved resources to manage what we can these days, the increase in home working and flexible working enables us to spend more time with our families. Women are achieving in gender neutral roles, and in some cases men are now able to be the stay-at-home dad again!

For more tips on maximising family time, click here.

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