Introduction: History and cultural anthropology
This is the introduction chapter of the book, which presents both the traditional view of procreation and the transformations it underwent; it employs anthropological suggestions but remains basically a historical survey. The study was sparked by comparing what historians and cultural anthropologists had to say about pre-industrial societies’ interest in and ability to control reproduction. Since the nineteenth century anthropologists have devoted a great deal of attention to the study of sexual systems and sexual cultures but it has only been since the late 1960s that historians have seriously investigated family life in early modern Britain and Europe. The study was carried out because more and more evidence indicated that what cultural anthropologists have revealed about sexual systems in other cultures, could be employed to allow a fruitful re-examination of attitudes towards procreation in early modern England.