A Focus on Family – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

A Focus on Family

“I’ve been accused of not being an economist,” says Assistant Professor of Economics Brian Cooper of his recently published book, “Family Fictions and Family Facts: Harriet Martineau, Adolphe Quetelet, and the Population Question in England 1798-1859.” The book examines the definition and role of family in Great Britain through the lens of economic and literary theory, though Cooper readily admits that there is a great deal of historical basis for the book. “After all,” he says, “my main thesis adviser was a historian.” Utilizing various historical texts, including etiquette guides, periodical essays and economic treatises, Cooper explores how political economists wrote about similarity and difference with respect to the family and how the public affirmed or denied classifications of family. Much of the book focuses on how women were expected to act, struggling with a lack of documentation about their social significance and illustrating the difficulty of defining ‘family’ without using normative terms. “Clearly there’s a critical role for women,” Cooper continues. “I looked at the British reaction to Adolphe Quetelet’s concept of ‘average man’, and while the term ‘average woman’ is implicit, it’s not spelled out.” The book also looks at physical space, including households and material possessions, in its quest to define the family. Cooper holds a B.A. from Haverford College and received his master’s and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. Before going to graduate school, Cooper worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where he compared the definition of work among different countries. Before joining the Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2007, Cooper was a visiting assistant professor at Gettysburg College, a visiting lecturer at Franklin Pierce College and an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Oswego. “Family Fictions and Family Facts: Harriet Martineau, Adolphe Quetelet, and the Population Question in England 1798-1859” is now available at the College Store.