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.
Venturing into the domesticity to be found behind closed doors is of course an irresistible adventure for feminist historians. The home was the female space par excellence. It was there that most women spent most of their time. At its worst, it could be a kind of cage,