Annotation: Johnson, Christopher H., David Warren Sabean, et al. 2011. Transregional and Transnational Families in Europe and Beyond.

Johnson, Christopher H., David Warren Sabean, Simon Teuscher, and Francesca Trivellato, eds. 2011. Transregional and Transnational Families in Europe and Beyond: Experiences since the Middle Ages. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books.

The authors look at family and kinship through the lens of “production and circulation of goods” (1) among families across and beyond Europe from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. As the editors write in the Introduction, “Whether migrants come in order to return to their home country or to stay in the new place is ultimately not only a question of culture and individual choice…, but also of property regimes and income strategies of their families” (10). In Chapter 1, Jose C. Moya argues that the history of the family is older than the history of the nation-state, differently argued by other scholars as created only two to five centuries ago. An international genealogy of the family institution in Europe reveals that transregional families began “as a response to geographical inequalities in resources and opportunities” during the Neolitihic age, and how they “developed their basic strategies of assistance and moving in the metal age.” He argues that the next 3,000 years saw the “noncontiguous transregionality, globalization, and massification of international families” (38). The concept of the “family” must not be taken lightly, and for it to be analytically useful, it is necessary to consider how it functions and how it is structured in particular contexts. Thus, the authors discuss a wide range of family-centred practices and events across Europe: the participation of elite Mamluk and Ottoman households in the political/military affairs of the “despotic rule” of the sultan in Egypt (Chapter 2); the extensive use of transnational and transregional marriages, the military, diplomacy, and ecclesiastical careers by the Gonzaga family that helped its members rise from local signori in north Italyto European high nobility in the 15th century (Chapter 3); the importance of female members in the “multirelationality” of kinship found in aristocratic families across the continent, which allowed for “transdynasticism” (Chapter 5); the role of kin connections in the bourgeois elite in making one’s “way into the nation” (Chapter 10); the rigorous process of developing identities, and the pragmatic use of networks composed not only of kin but also of strategically built alliances, by entrepreneurial families such as the Siemens clan of Germany (Chapter 11), etc.


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