Joint Sessions

Stepfamilies: the Making and Remaking of Families over Five Centuries (16th-20th Centuries)
Session code
Date Time
Thursday, August 25th / 09.00-12.30
Gabriela Erdélyi; Lyndan Warner
CK Zamek, Scena Nowa

Children in the past faced the continual threat of the loss of a parent before they reached adulthood – whether through the childbed death of a mother or from the sporadic threats of famine, war, and epidemic. To secure the upbringing of children, for economic survival, and to ensure family continuity many widowed parents sought to rebuild the broken family by remarriage. As a result, stepfamilies, in which siblings, half-siblings and stepsiblings lived together with parents and stepparents, were just as (if not more) common in the past as they are today. This specialized theme session examines the various forms and functions of stepfamilies and how stepfamilies evolved and survived from the 1500s to the 1900s. We propose to address questions related to 1) kinship networks and inheritance strategies. 2) the roles of stepparents and gendered structures of remarriage. 3) sibling relations 4) intergenerational relations 5) the dynamic of practices and representations. By making the stepfamily and its evolution over time the subject of analysis, the session aims to go beyond the historical accounts based on simplistic binary frames (such as the conjugal vs. extended, the emotionless and patriarchal vs. the sentimental, Western and Eastern European families) and convey instead the multivalent forms of preindustrial family dynamics found in stepfamilies and blended families.