I recall once watching a television programme when Francis Pryor was explaining his work, "What the aristocrats had for breakfast I leave to Starkey [the royalist historian of the British establishment] I am interested in the ordinary people" he says. Yes! My heart and mind resonated in concurrence. Similarly, in the Introduction to Home, Pryor states his view that the Victorian period is named after a person who spent her life doing very little, and that it would be more aptly named the Navvian, after the navvies, many of them Irish, who constructed Britain, and who worked enormously hard. Again,I concur.
Pryor rejects top-down narratives. In these narratives history is believed to be created by elites. Thus he is uninterested in the behaviour of kings and the ruling class, and points out that a royal visit to a small town might make a mention in the history books, but changes nothing. Similarly he rejects the view that social change is always created by elites handing down decisions from the top, delivering the fruits of their superior wisdom to grateful, but dumb peasantry. This top-down view he associates with the now discredited "march of mankind model" which saw history as a linear progression driven by elite individuals, classes and races who drive the rest forward, if they can, dispensing with those who cannot make progress, often humanely but not always. In the top down model only the lives of elites are worth recording, the rest are the anonymous chaff of history.
Pryor supports the view that left to themselves ordinary people acting as groups and families have been responsible for much social progress as the human race has been driven forward. This view is termed bottom up explanation. It is interested in aspects of history and prehistory completely opposite to the top down view. Pryor is in this book using archaeology to study home life in prehistory. His is a view that is more fair to women than the top down view,for as we know elites have tended to be male, and in their history women are seen as being of secondary importance, rather like ornaments or hangers on, but in Pryor's attitude to history, which studies ordinary life, women and ordinary men are the main subject, and are seen as the engine of change throughout history,making decisions and working collectively towards their goals. In the top down view the ordinary people do not account, they are cannon and industry fodder, but in the the view from below,their feelings and concerns are the stuff of life itself and really matter. For these perspectives alone the book is worth reading.
But you also find that the author reveals something of his own personality in Home, speaking of personal experiences. He is particularly keen to give proper credit to his wife,Maisie Taylor, an archaeological boffin in her own right, an expert in ancient wood. Whereas for some men the woman is an anonymous dishwasher and cook, whose career is an added and unwanted extra, Pryor celebrates his wife and gives her credit. Maisie has appeared on television much less than Francis has, but we suspect that is by her choice.
You are almost certainly right on the matter of monarchy. However, I think that it slowly evolved as some men grasped power and held onto it for themselves and their families. Yet different monarchical systems evolved with different systems of inheritance. In the British Isles we had the Pictish system of matrilineal inheritance [which I think also operated in Ireland for some time [s this is the best way to explain the dominance of Queen Maeve shown in the Tain Bo Culnaigh story.] There was the Gaelic system that involved choosing from the best member of a ruling family, and the present system of primogeniture, which was kept by Saxons and most Britons. Monarchy arises out of war, as we see in the First Book of Samuel in the Bible with the story of Saul's elevation to kingship, at a time when fighting the Philistines was the main issue for Israel.
When going back so far as 8000 B. C. I would be surprised if the idea of monarchy had even been thought of, although barbarian rulers were the biggest bully of the bunch, and they probably had bullies. But perhaps people were so scattered there was no group to reign over. Maybe every man was a family man.
DNA was not recovered, for it is likely that that the people there excarnated their dead, which involves leaving them to be eaten by birds and wild creatures. This was practised in parts of Britain. However, the geneticist Openheimer argued that East Britain was originally populated at the end of the Ice Age by immigrants from Denmark and Eastern Europe, who had crossed the then dry North Sea, so they may have looked quite fair skinned, as the Danes are.
frankbeswick, Thank you! Common to elite interactions can be so informative, particularly when people nowadays ponder what is and is not enduring -- technology apart -- about people getting together in nuclear families, extended networks, and ethnicities.
Do you know if DNA has been retrieved from Howick House and Star Carr? What are the suggestions as to how the various populations got there and what they looked like?
A pertinent question. There are styles of relationship into which humans tend to fall by default. Despite the fact that gender is fluid and people are not always strictly masculine and feminine, masculine and feminine are the two poles on the spectrum of human personality, and they seem to be rooted in the two physical genders, so I expect that while changes will occur, much will remain the same. I see relationships between male and female and the resulting offspring remaining the same into the indefinite future.
While we talk of the modern family, the word modern is I think not apt, for it wrongly implies some sense of progress in relationships over and against the past. Not all that is modern is good, and changes may need to be made in modern practices. Certainly, the shattered state of many modern families hit by divorce is no advert for modernity.
Looks like an interesting read, especially for people who want to compare family life in the past with families at present. Do you think a modern family, with much more loosening boundaries, can survive as a family in the traditional meaning of the word, or we should expect a new form (or forms) of connections between both genders and all generations in the future?