chapter  One
31 Pages

The sibling relationship and sibling incest in historical context

ByLeonore Davidoff

From the thundering majesty of Greek tragedy to the brutal Icelandic sagas, to the sentimentality of such Victorian verses as the above, the relationship of brother and sister has haunted our cultural heritage. In the rare cases where historians have noticed sibling relationships, their importance has been evident. Despite the centrality of this relationship, both historically and in contemporary life, it remains strangely neglected, relegated to a fragmentary footnote of the historical record. In structural terms, siblings are not always the equals portrayed in the model or the ideal. Given the long period in which a parent is capable of generating children, some siblings will be of an age that is more like a parent than peer generation to those born later in the family. The historical picture of siblings is also blurred because kinship relations have so often been used as metaphor.