Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE A History of the Family and Sexual Behaviour

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION Michel Foucault’s three volumes entitled ‘The History of Sexuality’ have revolutionized the way how sexuality is looked at from a historical point of view. Foucault’s concepts will be studied and analysed both within European and Maltese sexuality.

Marrying a foreign groom presented serious risks in the society of the ancien régime. The risk was inherent to sexuality. The fear of the stranger brought about a whole reform in the marriage and sexual practices in Europe in Early Modern Times. Even the concept of sexuality and marital fidelity changed during modern times. Marriage would be more than ever considered as an amicitia extenditur ad extraneos, a private event and any form of external sexuality was to be suppressed. The Catholic Church’s reaction to all these changes will be analysed in depth.

Changes in family structures in Europe had their effect on Maltese family households. Family reconstruction together with the status animarum registers are a good medium to analyse the set-up of past Maltese families and households. But Maltese and Europe families will be analysed against the background of Foucault’s theories about western sexuality. Particular attention would be given to families living around the harbour town of Malta. The growth and behaviour of Maltese families will be compared to that of other European countries. The course will cover the exogenous and indigenous factors that determined behavioural change, including the effects of demographic transition, migration, child abandonment, abortion, legitimacy and illegitimacy, diet and nutrition, as well as sexual customs. Aesthetics was and still is an important aspect in the so-called marriage market. Nutrition is important both in terms of human beauty and life expectancy.

The Early Modern Period witnessed an increased emphasis on the propagation of family values, expressed through birth and death rituals. This was expressed both through theology and art. Secular minds began to violently react to the increased control that the Catholic Church was having on society, in particular through the fear of death. Through the seminars, students will measure the effect of mortality on the growth of population in Europe and analyse the medium used by religion and the secular world to propagate their contrasting messages.

Death had a determining role on the marriage market and life expectancy, as it still has today. This theme is clearly interrelated with marriage and sexual behaviour. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century representation of death is an eye opener on the vision of life and beauty in early modern Europe. Therefore, iconographic representations together with old published texts and unedited archival material will form the basic texts of this study-unit.

Study-Unit Aims:

This study-unit aims to discuss different aspects related to family life and sexual practices in Malta and Europe. It introduces the students to the theories of Jacques Foucault about the subject of sexualityand sexual behaviour.

The study-unit will explain the Catholic Church’s marriage regulations and how Catholic teaching affected and conditioned sexual norms in Europe. It aims to discuss thoroughly the Tridentine reforms and the subsequent marriage regulations. Past sexual practices and behaviour will be explained. Particular attention will be given to marriage dispensations and consanguinity. It will also deal with natal and parturition practices in Europe and Malta. This will discuss the natal practices as described in old eighteenth-century texts and parturition representations in religious iconography and preoccupations with after-life. Abandoned children, orphanages and the history of abortion will also be dealt with, whilst the relation between religion and nutrition will be explored.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- define the influence of religion on the formation of Europe's and Malta's past families;
- identify the spiritual mechanisms on family structures;
- discover the importance of old vocabularies, dictionaries and manuscripts for the search of references about male and female aesthetics and cosmetics;
- discover about social survival, tragedy, personal satisfaction and merrymaking in past times;
- identify the use of natural herbs for personal embellishment;
- pinpoint the birth and death occurrences in Europe;
- better define the cultural complexities deriving from Religious constructs;
- appreciate better one's background and identity;
- possess a basic knowledge of family history;
- view sexual behaviour outside and before marriage.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- uncover past family histories and sexual practices;
- improve social judgment and investigative skills;
- deal with the myriad of archival and online resources for the history of the family;
- evaluate critically past social situations and family behaviours;
- explore patterns of different marital behaviours;
- provide new evidence on marital history variables;
- undertake research on components of the European and Maltese traditional families.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:
- Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, 3vols. Penguin books.
- Simon Mercieca, ‘Amicitia Extenditur ad Extraneos, Marriage Law and the Concept of Citizenship (1563-1789)’, Journal of Mediterranean Studies. History, Culture and Society in the Mediterranean World, Vol.10, Number 1&2, 2000. pp.151-171.
- Simon Mercieca, Marriage Prospects in Early Modern Malta: the Integration of Venetian subjects in an alien country, Melita Historica, Vol. XIV, no. 3, 2006.
- Giovanna Da Molin, Istituzioni, assistenza e religiosità nella società del Mezzogiorno d’Italia tra XVIII e Xix secolo, Cacucci Editore – Bari, 2009.
- Anthony Giddens: Introduction to Sociology, 2011.
- History of Private Life, Vols. 3, 4, 5. General Editors: Philippe Ariès, George Duby, Michelle Perrot and Arthur Goldhammer.Harvard University Press, 1993.
- Foucault, Michel (1979 [1976]). The History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction. Robert Hurley (translator). London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-1094-1.

Supplementary Readings:
- Jack Goody: The Development of the family and marriage in Europe, Cambridge University Press, 1983.
- Jean-Louis Flandrin, Families in Former Lives, Cambridge University Press,1979.
- George Alter: Family and the Female Life Course – The Women of Verviers, Belgium 1849-1880, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1988.
- David Cressy, Marriage and Death. Ritual, Religion and Life-cycle in Tudor and Stuart England, Oxford University Press, 1997.
- Peter Laslett. Household and Family in Past Times, C.U.P. 1975.
- Gregory Hanlon, Confession and Community in Seventeenth Century France: Catholic and Protestant Coexistence in Aquitaine.
- Marriage and remarriage in populations of the past, edited by J. Dupâquier, Academic P., 1981.
- Bastardy and its comparative history : studies in the history of illegitimacy and marital nonconformism in Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, North America, Jamaica, and Japan, edited by Peter Laslett, Karla Oosterveen, and Richard M. Smith, Harvard U.P., 1980.
- Levine, David, Reproducing families : the economy of English population history, Cambridge U.P., 1987.
- Giovanna Da Molin, La famiglia nel Passato: Strutture familiari nel Regno di Napoli in età moderna, Cacucci Editore – Bari, 1990.
- Giovanna Da Molin, La Famiglia Ieri e Oggi: Trasformazioni demografici e sociali dal XV-XX secolo, Cacucci Editore – Bari, 1992.
- Knodel, John E. Demographic behavior in the past : a study of fourteen German village populations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Cambridge U.P., 1988.
- Carlo M. Cipolla, Before the Industrial Revolution, European Society and Economy, 1000 - 1700, Routledge London, 1993.
- Elena Brambilla, La Medicina del Settecento, dal manopolio dogmatico alla professione scientifica, in Storia d’Italia. “Annali” 7, Malattia e medicina, a cura di F.Della Peruta, Torino, Einaudi, 1983, pp.5-147
- Francesco Emanuele Cangiamila, Umbrologia Sacra. 1751.
- Population and history : form the traditional to the modern world, edited by Robert I. Rotberg and Theodore K. Rabb; guest editors, Roger S. Schofield and E. Anthony Wrigley; Cambridge U.P., 1986.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 50%
Seminar Paper Yes 50%

LECTURER/S Simon Mercieca

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2021/2. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.