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  • Governing Masculinities in the Early Modern Period: Regulating Selves and Others ed. by Susan Broomhall and Jacqueline Van Gent
  • Charlotte-Rose Millar
Broomhall, Susan and Jacqueline Van Gent, eds, Governing Masculinities in the Early Modern Period: Regulating Selves and Others (Women and Gender in the Early Modern World), Farnham, Ashgate, 2011; hardback; pp. 342; 19 b/w illustrations; R.R.P. £65.00; ISBN 9781409432388.

In Governing Masculinities in the Early Modern Period: Regulating Selves and Others, Susan Broomhall and Jacqueline Van Gent bring together four distinct sets of essays all questioning how male governance was constructed in early modern Europe. The collection is arranged chronologically, beginning in the fourteenth century and ending in the nineteenth. A number of key themes emerge: the importance of governing one's own body before being allowed to govern another person's, the importance of governing one's own household before being considered worthy of public office, the ways in which men negotiated and renegotiated these societal expectations to achieve authority over others, and the ongoing shifts in what was considered authoritatively masculine across different social groups, time periods, and countries.

The ambitiously large chronological and geographical scope of the collection allows the editors and authors to make a number of fruitful comparisons between different historical time periods and contexts. Although this approach might appear overly broad, the use of complementary [End Page 212] and detailed case studies allows key themes to be explored in depth from a number of different perspectives.

The editors' desire to create links between times and places is tested in the first set of essays which look at the idea of 'civic manliness' across three centuries and four countries. Although this approach could run the risk of making vague or forced connections, it actually does the opposite in demonstrating ongoing and broadly accepted understandings of masculine authority. Chapters by Stephanie Tarbin and Jennifer Spinks complement each other as they explore the links between controlling one's own body (particularly in relation to sexual desire and greed) and earning the right to govern others. Essays by Rosa Salzberg and Lisa Keane Elliott provide an alternative view of masculinity by highlighting how men were able to negotiate new structures, such as guilds and institutions, to assert their right to govern.

In the second set, the focus shifts from the male body and the creation of new men and institutions, to an examination of aristocratic men who were unable, or unwilling, to establish their masculinity through the traditional model of household control. Both Peter Sherlock and Susie Protschky use case studies (in England and the Dutch Colonial world respectively) to showcase military achievement as an alternative way for men to assert their right to govern. Sherlock's essay also links in with the first essay of this section by Jared van Duinen. Whereas Sherlock stresses militant masculinity as something exclusively masculine and closed to the female aristocracy (unlike money, social standing, and birth right), van Duinen stresses the role of women in creating and supporting positions of patriarchal authority.

The third set of essays continues to explore many of the previous themes (particularly those concerning sexuality and the male body) but also introduces a new element through their focus on alternative constructions of masculinity. The authors deny that there was a universal claim to masculine authority through gender, social standing, or wealth, and grapple with how this authority is obtained and retained on the margins of society. Elizabeth Kent's article in particular revisits the concept of obtaining (or losing) authority over bodies through controlling (or failing to control) one's own body. Van Gent and Giovanni Tarantino, on the other hand, both use case studies to illustrate how men attempted to impose their authority on societies outside their own worlds and experiences.

The collection ends with three essays that examine masculine power struggles in France, England, and Scotland during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Robert Weston traces the delicate relationships between male physicians and male patients. He shows how power was [End Page 213] not simply dictated by social status or advanced knowledge but, rather, was being constantly negotiated. Joanne McEwan's essay shifts this focus slightly and discusses...


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