Amy HarrisNov 21, 2023
Being Single in Georgian England
Families, Households, and the Unmarried
Oxford University Press 2023
Being Single in Georgian England: Families, Households, and the Unmarried (Oxford University Press, 2023) by Dr. Amy Harris is the first book-length exploration of what family life looked like, and how it was experienced, when viewed from the perspective of unmarried and childless family members. Using a microhistorical approach, Dr. Harris covers three generations of the famous musical and abolitionist Sharp family. The abundance of records the Sharps produced and preserved reveals how single family members influenced the household economy, marital decisions, childrearing practices, and conceptions about lineage and genealogy. The importance of childhood relationships and the life-long nature of siblinghood stand out as central aspects of Sharp family life, no matter their marital status. Along the way, Being Single explores humour, music, religious practice and belief, death and mourning, infertility, disability, slavery, abolition, philanthropy, and family memory.
The Sharps' experiences uncover how important lateral kin like siblings and cousins were to marital and household decisions. The analysis also reveals additional layers of Georgian family life, including: single sociability not centred on courtship; the importance of aunting and uncling on their own terms; the ways charitable acts and philanthropic endeavours could serve as outlets or partial replacements for parenthood; and how genealogical practices could be tied to values and identity instead of to biological descendants' possession of property.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.