How patriarchal was life in the 16th and 17th Century in England?

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Life was very patriarchal indeed in 16th and 17th century England and would continue to be so for a very long time to come. Men were expected to exert absolute power in the home, with complete control over their wives and children. This was largely due to a selective interpretation of the Bible, many of whose verses appeared to endorse a patriarchal society. As this was a deeply religious age, few questioned what was widely regarded as the inerrant Word of God.

Women, for their part, were expected to obey their husbands without question. If they didn't, they could be subject to physical abuse, which was considered not just acceptable at the time but perfectly legal. The same applied to children, who were regularly subject to physical abuse if they stepped out of line (and even sometimes if they didn't). Within the patriarchal home, physical violence was routinely used as a method of control to ensure that the man of the house remained firmly in charge.

Outside the confines of the home, it was also very much a man's world. Men ran the country, and women were systematically excluded from sharing in political power. The best that certain well-placed women could hope for was to exercise power behind the scenes, such as that exerted by Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. But this was a potentially dangerous game to play, as Anne found out when her political enemies at court conspired to have her executed on trumped-up charges of treason.

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