In England, the household was the basic economic production unit for much of the early modern period. Whether a household produced small or large yields, it still contributed to the economy of the time.

The household itself came in two major forms. The noble (or higher sort) household consisted of the lord, his immediate family, and anywhere up to about 100 servants and apprentices. The lord in fact was the head of the household: he gave orders to all who lived within his house (or keep, or whatever). He controlled how the house functioned and what was produced at what speed and what cost. He was the lord of the manor--the holder of political power and landlord for his region--but he was also the householder, the holder of the house, who controlled the economic power of the manor and of everyone living within it.

The peasant (or lower sort) household was constructed along the same lines, but it was far more likely to only include a nuclear family. The father of the family was still the head of the household, and managed the holding, but there was generally much less holding to manage. He decided what to grow or make, but he had less means by which to grow or make these things. The family members were the only means of production available, especially to the poorest families. As a result of these limitations, most small holders ended up doing more subsistence farming than anything else.

But there was a third variety of household arising: the middling sort. The richer farmers of the time, generally known as yeoman farmers, had been able to build up their small holdings into prosperous farms. These holders were not subsistence farming: they were gaining a profit every year. As such, they were often able to rent more land from their lord, and from there to build up even more profit. They could support more animals (such as chickens and sheep) than the small holder, and might even own horses, a sure sign of prosperity.

Many holders with the means to support a servant would have one or two in the household, in order to work more and therefore to produce more yields. They did not need to be rich or lord it over a manor; all they needed was the food, bed, and pittance for another mouth. Even the smallest of holders could hope to work up to this level, and the larger yeomen could support a platoon of workers. And in a few generations, a small holder could easily have worked up to being a large holder.

A servant or apprentice within a noble household was seen as being of a lower sort than the family, who were generally aristocratic. But in a small household, the servants or apprentices were often on the same social level as their masters. They were the children of neighbors and friends, sent out of the house to make enough money for dowries or rents. They ate at the same table and associated with each other regularly, as equal members of the same hold. In effect, the household operated as a family.

House"hold` (?), n.

1.

Those who dwell under the same roof and compose a family.

And calls, without affecting airs, His household twice a day to prayers. Swift.

2.

A line of ancestory; a race or house.

[Obs.]

Shak.

 

© Webster 1913.


House"hold`, a.

Belonging to the house and family; domestic; as, household furniture; household affairs.

Household bread, bread made in the house for common use; hence, bread that is not of the finest quality. [Obs.] -- Household gods Rom. Antiq., the gods presiding over the house and family; the Lares and Penates; hence, all objects endeared by association with home. -- Household troops, troops appointed to attend and guard the sovereign or his residence.

 

© Webster 1913.

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