Impact of Family Structure on Economic Activity during the Early Modern Period in England and Scotland

Project Abstract

My research project will focus on Scotland and England during the Early Modern Period. The Early Modern Period is roughly defined as 1500-1750. This era is marked by a period of religious conflict and political turmoil throughout much of Europe. My research will focus on middle and upper class families in Scotland and England. I am particularly interested in the personal correspondence between family members. This will assist me in the study of middle and upper class family structures. While studying family structures and interpersonal relationships, I will also be looking at how these families interact with their economy. My research will attempt to answer the question, how do family structures impact a family’s economic activity throughout middle and upper class Scotland and England during the Early Modern period?

The types of families I will focus my research on will be wealthy merchant-class or trade families (who make up an early middle class in England and Scotland) and aristocratic families, who comprise the upper class. This is in part due to the availability of information and correspondence that has been preserved from members of these social classes.

Part of my research will focus on establishing context in the early modern period in England and Scotland. Specifically, elements of society such as gender relations, economic concerns of the merchant class, literacy rates, and other general information that will assist me in completing my project. I hope that by looking at other topics within early modern society it will provide context to sources, as well as help me develop an understanding as to why family structures developed the way they did.

Furthermore, I plan on using correspondence to provide primary source material in understanding how families related to each other on an economic and personal level. Since I have spent two weeks in the National Records of Scotland, I have studied many primary sources that I may be able to use in this project. I have also, looked extensively into several branches of the aristocratic Hamilton family of Scotland. I plan on continuing to study correspondence, especially that of middle class families, as my experience with primary source material from these families is lacking, alongside my readings of secondary sources.

Funding Type


Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts


History/ International Studies


Bachelor of Arts




Dr. Kathy Callahan

Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts

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