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Dinah Birch writes:
Family life was very different in the 19th century. What Leonore Davidoff calls the ‘long family’ – a succession of children with birthdates spanning a period of twenty years or more – was common. The change has been radical, and its consequences far-reaching. Yet, as Davidoff reminds us in her study of sibling relations in the long 19th century, this has not been a popular subject with social historians: everyone had siblings and so it hardly seemed to merit attention. Everybody could claim experience, if not expertise. From an academic point of view, specialising in domestic history didn’t offer much in the way of career advancement. The ramifications of family life were often assumed to be the territory of women researchers, while men got on with more meaningful work. Fundamental shifts in the assumptions that underlie historical scrutiny have meant that historians now recognise the significance of the emotions in the lives of men as well as women, and begin to acknowledge links between ‘psychic processes and public life’, as Davidoff puts it.