Mothering in the western world has come to be viewed as a highly politicized activity. What mothers do (or fail to do) is publicly debated and considered a measure by which political ideologies are legitimated. While this is often thought to be a product of modernity, its roots and its consequences were already evident in early modern Rome, where an elective monarchy created a politically fluid situation in which aristocratic women played critical roles in advancing their families' interests.
Accounting for Affection analyzes the symbiotic evolution of politics and mothering in Rome, where women did not hesitate to turn to the expanding judicial system during familial disputes. By examining women's legal activities, their letters, and their daily routines of caring for children, Caroline Castiglione recovers the connections between the political and the maternal. During family conflicts, a woman remained a family advocate (mater litigans) and the propagator of the dynasty of which she was a controversial part. Against the model of absolutist familial rule by men, aristocratic women proposed a consortium of interests model for the family. Such women praised the merits of love and raised maternal affection to the standard for all family members' behavior. From the religious controversies of their day, they crafted a domestic theology in which the wishes of all children had to be considered.
Accounting for Affection illuminates the multifaceted nature of early modern motherhood, tracing the porous boundaries between the political, legal, religious, and medical activities of mothers in early modern Rome.