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Managing an Experimental Household: The Dees of Mortlake and the Practice of Natural Philosophy

Deborah E. Harkness
Isis
Vol. 88, No. 2 (Jun., 1997), pp. 247-262
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/236573
Page Count: 16
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Managing an Experimental Household: The Dees of Mortlake and the Practice of Natural Philosophy
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Abstract

Jane Dee was married to Elizabethan England's most eminent natural philosopher, John Dee. As John Dee's wife Jane was expected to perform a variety of traditional housewifely duties--managing servants, supervising domestic arrangements, and serving as a model of virtue for her family and the community. As the wife of a natural philosopher, however, Jane Dee was expected also to be her husband's helpmeet and partner--helping to make sure that the "business" of natural philosophy was profitable, overseeing the work of his philosophical assistants, and protecting her husband's privacy. This essay examines how Jane Dee negotiated her two roles within a busy and complicated household--how she interacted with her husband and his natural philosophy--and argues that the domestic sphere is an important site of knowledge production in the early modern period.

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