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family history, childhood, English Middle Ages, mystery cycles


Recent studies in family history have largely reaffirmed the commonplace that, prior to the Renaissance, children were seldom seen and rarely heard. Philippe Ariès and Lawrence Stone, for their parts, have traced the evolution of the concepts of childhood, privacy, and the conjugal family; the point of origin for each, they fix in the Renaissance. But encyclopedic as Ariès and Stone have been in researching their respective theories of "undiscovered childhood" and "conscious limitation of affection", they, nevertheless, have slighted the testimony of the popular literature of the English Middle Ages, an oversight that has led them to establish arbitrary beginnings.