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A World of Their Own Making

A World of Their Own Making

Myth, Ritual, and the Quest for Family Values

John R. Gillis

ISBN 9780674961883

Publication date: 10/15/1997

Our whole society may be obsessed with “family values,” but as John Gillis points out in this entertaining and eye-opening book, most of our images of “home sweet home” are of very recent vintage. A World of Their Own Making questions our idealized notion of “The Family,” a mind-set in which myth and symbol still hold sway. As the families we live with become more fragile, the symbolic families we live by become more powerful. Yet it is only by accepting the notion that our ritual, myths, and images must be open to perpetual revision that we can satisfy our human needs and changing circumstances.


  • Synthesizes, in thoroughly readable prose, a tremendous amount of recent historical literature on Western family life from the Middle Ages to the present. This is no mean feat, and the fact that it undermines many loudly proclaimed political pieties is a delicious bonus.

    —Warren Goldstein, Philadelphia Inquirer


  • John R. Gillis is Professor of History at Rutgers University and author of For Better, For Worse: British Marriages, 1600 to the Present.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 6 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press