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The Little Republic Masculinity and Domestic Authority in Eighteenth-Century Britain

ISBN: 9780199686131 | 0199686130
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pub. Date: 6/26/2014

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This is an open access title available under the terms of a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 International licence. It is free to read at Oxford Scholarship Online and offered as a free PDF download from OUP and selected open access locations.

The Little Republic examines the relationship between masculinity, the household, and domestic patriarchy. How did men engage with domestic life? What did the household mean to men? How could they lay claim to domestic authority? In reconstructing men's own understandings, this volume foregrounds the concept of the 'house' and the associated discourse of 'oeconomy': the practice of managing the economic and moral resources of the household for the maintenance of good order. Oeconomy shaped men's engagements with the household adn underpinned the patriarchal authority they acquired through the mundane material practices of everyday household management. The house also endured as a central component of masculinity, providing the grounding for men's self and public identities. Indeed, the skills and virtues practised by men in their 'little republics' were tied increasingly closely to a language of public-spirited political citizenship.

The close relationship between men and the domestic in eighteenth-century Britain has been obscured by accounts that chart a decline in domestic patriarchy grounded in political patriarchalism, and the emergence of a new 'home' charcterized by a feminized culture of 'domesticity'. The Little Republic shifts the terms of these discussions. The eighteenth-century house was neither private nor feminized. Oeconomy brought together the house and the world - and increasingly so - primarily through men's authoritative engagement with the household.

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