Vicesimus Knox, one of nature’s moralists, had no doubt that in Georgian England, ‘every family is a little community, and who governs it well supports a very noble character, that of the paterfamilias or Patriarch’. It was a cliché of the time that the family was a microcosm of the state. As the monarch dominated a hierarchy of birth and wealth, so the father ruled over dependants, servants and apprentices. Ideally, everyone knew his or her place, and pleasantly exchanged deference for condescension. It was a snug model, but was it really how lives were lived? Drawing on extensive archival material, Amanda Vickery sets out to give an answer.