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Centering Families, 1500-1800




This conference takes an integrative approach to the history of families around the early modern Atlantic world, exploring how family issues are intrinsic to explaining larger Atlantic patterns. Families functioned as key political, economic, social, cultural, and religious units, whether or not individuals remained physically, emotionally, or economically connected to them. Households formed the basis of social, political, and economic order. The rhetoric of family relations underpinned diplomacy, politics, and religion. Secular and sacred authorities alike tried to regulate marriage, sexuality, and family in metropolitan and colonial contexts. The interplay of local particularities and general patterns shaped families as families in turn shaped local circumstances and broader trajectories. Embedded in households, kin connections, and gender dynamics, families were at the center of Atlantic worlds.


Founded in 2007, the Institute for Historical Studies provides a dynamic and multifaceted intellectual community. It fosters creative and productive conversations within the Department of History, between our department and other departments and centers, between our faculty and colleagues nationwide, and between the department and our community of alumni and neighbors. The Institute offers yearlong visiting fellowships and hosts regular workshops, lectures, and conferences. For full details of all our programs, see

The College of William and Mary and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation created the Institute of Early American History and Culture in 1943 to foster study, research, and publications bearing on the early American past approximately to the year 1815. Still jointly sponsored by the College and Colonial Williamsburg but renamed in 1996, in recognition of a generous gift from the late Mr. and Mrs. Malvern H. Omohundro, Jr., the Institute publishes the William and Mary Quarterly, books in its field of interest, and a e-newsletter; organizes and supports a variety of conferences, seminars, and colloquia; and annually offers a two-year NEH postdoctoral fellowship and a one-year Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral research fellowship. Complete information is available at