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CGED Research Seminar Series

The Empire of the Father: The Remaking of Patriarchal Family Government in the Nineteenth Century United States

The Empire of the Father: The Remaking of Patriarchal Family Government in the Nineteenth Century United States

Speaker: Dr Julia Bowes, Assistant Professor, Department of History, HKU

Respondent: Dr Staci Ford, Honorary Associate Professor, Department of History and School of Modern Languages and Cultures, HKU

Moderator: Dr Nicholas YH Wong, Society of Fellows in the Humanities, HKU

Date: October 27, 2020 (Tuesday)

Time: 7:30 PM

Delivery: Zoom

Since colonial times, the patriarch had been a pillar of state power in the United States. The state governed through the head of the household who was vested with the authority and discretion to govern his dependents, a form of government that William Blackstone famously dubbed the “empire of the father.” The rise of the modern liberal state, however, directly challenged the powers of the patriarch by establishing a direct relationship between the state and household dependents. This talk offers the concept of paternal sovereignty as a new framework to understand domestic relations in the Anglo-American Victorian world. It explores the debates over the proper boundaries of paternal power that erupted in the mid-nineteenth century as the demands of abolitionists and women’s rights advocates challenged central precepts about family government, citizenship and individual rights. Assessing how the reconstitution of liberalism affected the legal status of children through a series of court cases, this talk illuminates the ways that white patriarchal family government was challenged and remade across the long nineteenth century.

Julia Bowes is an assistant professor of U.S. history and gender history at the University of Hong Kong. She received her PhD at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in 2018 and was awarded the 2019 Lerner-Scott prize for the best dissertation in U.S. women’s history by the Organization of American Historians. She is currently working on her book project, tentatively titled Invading the Home: Children, State Power and the Gendered Origins of Modern Conservatism, 1852-1933, with the support of an Early Career Scheme grant from the Hong Kong University Grants Council. She has previously held a Jefferson Scholars National Fellowship in political history from the University of Virginia and a dissertation fellowship in women’s studies from the Woodrow Wilson Institute.

Supported by:

The Nineteenth-Century Research Cluster is based in the Faculty of Arts and offers a forum for interdisciplinary research in the nineteenth century across fields as diverse as art history, history, literature, and music.

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