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William Gouge. Of Domesticall Duties. London, 1622, reproduced as frontispiece in John Demos, A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, 2nd ed.

In 1970, historian John Demos published an important work on family life in colonial Plymouth.  The title of his book captures a central idea: that colonists who came to America from England brought with them a set of cultural attitudes about the ways families functioned as little commonwealths, or miniature versions of the state, where habits of authority and obedience were inculcated.  Demos opened his work with this excerpt from a 1622 English tract articulating the concept.

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Document excerpt:
“...a familie is a little Church, and a little commonwealth, at least a lively representation thereof, whereby triall may be made of such as are fit for any place of authoritie, or of subjection in Church or commonwealth. Or rather it is as a schoole wherein the first principles and grounds of government and subjection are learned: whereby men are fitted to greater matters in Church or commonwealth.”

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