The family has been and still is, for better or worse, the core institution of all human societies. It has demonstrated a remarkable robustness in the face of all the environmental and man-made shocks that history has thrown at it. That extraordinary durability says something about the fundamental biological and social imperatives that make humans organise their lives that way. The 20th century was full of schemes to dissolve or regulate the family, but in the end, while revolutions, dictatorships and wars come and go, the family lives on.
Nevertheless politics can matter, even temporarily. In this wide-ranging and thought-provoking book, Paul Ginsborg, a professor of history at the University of Florence, argues that the historian’s view of the family as a constant, off-stage presence is misplaced. In the first half of the 20th century, the age of world