Adolescence and Youth in Early Modern England

Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos

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July 23, 2013
352 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300204681
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

In preindustrial England, few people could expect to live past the age of forty, and so adolescence and youth represented a significant proportion of an individual's life. This book by Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos is the first to explore in depth the transition from childhood to adulthood during this period, describing the maturation processes of young people from the middle and lower classes who spent their youth as apprentices, domestic servants, or agricultural servants and laborers.

Previous historians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have assumed either that childhood was brief and there was no adolescence, or that childhood was prolonged and adolescence was maintained well into the mid-twenties. Ben-Amos argues instead that while the maturation process was prolonged in some cases, it was short and intense in others, and that variations were due to complex mental, social, and economic causes. Paying close attention to differences introduced by gender and social and geographical contexts, Ben-Amos focuses on numerous aspects of youths' lives as they related to maturation. These include the separation of adolescents from their parents, their working lives, acquisitions of new skills, social relationships, religious attitudes, sexual mores and norms, and leisure activities. Drawing on urban and court records, as well as on 74 contemporary autobiographies, Ben-Amos vividly recreates the experience of growing up in early modern England.

Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos is a lecturer of history at Ben-Gurion University, Beer-Sheva, Israel.

"[An] enterprising new study. . . . For those who believe that the strains imposed on the modern family are without precedent, . . . there is much to ponder in this book."—John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph

"A book of great scholarship and even greater sobriety; the kind of social history which shows a reassuring grounding in primary sources and archive records. . . . Pregnant with insight into what it was like to be young in the English Renaissance."—Peter Bradshaw, Independent on Sunday

"A useful, absorbing, social history."—Choice

"Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos has written a useful and significant study illuminating the extraordinary range and variety in the lives of English young people."—Peter Clark, Times Literary Supplement

"A sound and careful study. . . . A fascinating . . . narrative of apprenticeship."—Newton E. Key, Sixteenth Century Journal

"With clear and compelling argument and unusual good sense . . . This bright and refreshing study lays a new and important foundation for the study of adolescence and youth in early modern England."—Steven Ozment, The Economic History Review

"This scholarly, meticulously annotated work remains eminently readable and will appeal particularly to readers who like to be immersed in corroborative detail and illustrative examples. This book has relevance for all those who are concerned with adolescents because it highlights the importance of social, cultural and economic factors in shaping this maturational period, as well as the biological determinants. Its relevance is increased by the way it breaks new ground in its emphasis on the under-used 'classical' concept of youth."—William Parry-Jones, Journal of Adolescence

"A well-written book, Ben-Amos has conveyed a sense of what it was like to be in the early modern age and how different young people were then from what they are now when the world and life in it are more stable."—Steven R. Smith, History of Education Quarterly

"The book, thoroughly researched and well-written, will become a benchmark for future work in the field. . . . [It] provides . . . a persuasive context for the study of education, illuminated by many personal accounts of what it was like to be young in early modern England."—Hugh Cunningham, Journal of Educational Administration and History