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Astride's of Hajnal line: central and the geography of family forms, 17th - 19th centuries


The debate on the allegedly unique European family system has been obsessed with distinguishing between the area of the Northwest- European pattern and other zones. John Hajnal proposed a demarcation line running right through Central Europe and dividing t he continent into two zones of sharply contrasted family systems. Also, Peter Laslett from the Cambridge Group tentatively divided Europe into four broad geographical zones, each with its peculiar family system. In all these debates place of Central Europe was ambiguous and Janus-faced. In fact, these continent-wide typologies were never concerned overmuch with describing precisely where the 'west' ended and where the 'east' began and they were based on few and scattered data not including any sources from Poland. The principal goal of this project is to reassess the picture of Central European family patterns in (all-) European setting.

This implies dealing with the issues whether there was a borderline distinguishing Central European family patterns and marriage behaviours in the past from those considered by Hajnal as 'unique', and if so, where this frontier was located, what the distinguishing features were. The main goal of this project is to investigate household structures and marriage behaviours for several local communities from different parts of Poland and Silesia in 18th and 19th centuries. I am also going to make inter-regional comparison of Polish/Silesian data with the findings for other Central European regions, and finally with research results available for Eastern, Northwestern and Southern Europe.

I also want to take hypotheses of borderlines like the one suggested by John Hajnal as subjects of historical research: Where and when, and in which contexts, were such borderlines, dividing 'Central Europe' from the 'West' hypothesised. The main contribution of the research proposal to advance the state-of-art within the project's field concerns its potential for general refinement.

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The Old Schools, Trinity Lane
United Kingdom