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The Decline of Life
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 (ISBN-13: 9780511189494 | ISBN-10: 0511189494)

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Susannah Ottaway combines a comprehensive survey of existing literature on the history of ageing with original interpretation and analysis of available data. Using a wide variety of sources (literature, correspondence, poor house and workhouse documents and diaries), Ottaway's account of the experiences of the aged reveals attitudes in eighteenth-century England that shed light on contemporary aging issues by historical comparison.


List of figures; List of tables; Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations; Introduction: old age in eighteenth-century England: no 'golden age of ageing'; 1. Who was 'old' in eighteenth-century England?; 2. The activities of the 'helmsman': self-reliance, work and community expectations of the elderly; 3. 'The comforts of a private fire-side'; 4. Independent but not alone: family ties for the elderly; 5. Community assistance to the aged under the Old Poor Law; 6. Continuity and change in community assistance to the elderly over the eighteenth century; 7. Within workhouse walls: indoor relief for the elderly; Conclusion: old age as a useful category of historical analysis; Bibliography; Index.


"Ottaway's book, however, does serve as a model for how to write a gendered social history... historians of demography, family, society, gender, and, of course, the eighteenth century, will find much in Ottaway's book to interest and instruct them."

"Her book is an important contribution to our understanding of the development of societal attitudes towards the poor and elderly in the Anglo-American world. Its careful use of quantitative and qualitative research techniques is a model of innovative social history."
-John M. Herrick, Michigan State University, Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare

"The Decline of Life: Old Age in Eighteenth-Century England is an ambitious and much needed examination of a pivotal century in the history of old age[...]Susannah Ottaway imaginatively employs a varied collection of evidence to address an array of her admirably successful effort to characterize the construction of aging in this transitional era[....]Her incisive, lucid and multifaceted analysis is an admirable model for putting that call into action and, as such, makes a lasting and important contribution to the field."
-Anne Kugler, Journal of Modern History

"This rich and informative book will be a standard reference and a starting point for future work on aging in the eighteenth century. It is well written and very nicely produced, including a full Bibliography."
-Anita Guerrini, University of California, Santa Barbara, The Scriblerian

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