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Thicker than Water: Siblings and Their Relations

By Leonore Davidoff

Thicker than Water is a pioneering study of sibling relationships from the last decades of the eighteenth century to the first decades of the twentieth. The particular focus of the book is on the British middle class.

Leonore Davidoff examines what we know about the relationships of brothers and sisters at this time, before delving deeper, looking at their uses and their meanings for British middle class families. He examines how they operated within the economic, social, cultural, and religious constraints of the time, and how they changed as families became smaller from the end of the nineteenth century onwards.

Brothers and sisters remain, for those that have them, an inextricable part of existence. In adult life they may never be in contact, but they cannot be formally divorced. They are frequently life’s longest relationship. Yet until recently, historians have scarcely noted the role of siblings in society and the economy as well as in personal life.

The issues raised throughout the book are grounded in an exploration of some specific themes: sibling intimacy and incest, sibling death, case studies of famous brother-sister relationships, and a revealing account of the household and family relations of Sigmund Freud.

Praise for Thicker Than Water:

‘A compelling and pathbreaking exploration of the neglected subject of siblingship. Hugely illuminating, informed by profound and broad scholarship, and also wonderfully readable, it is a work that will be of interest to historians and social scientists of all persuasions.’ – Janet Carsten, University of Edinburgh

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