Andrejs Plakans builds on the pioneering work of Peter Laslett, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Georges Duby, Lawrence Stone, Jack Goody and Alan Macfarlane, to produce a book that is aimed at historians, sociologists and anthropologists. The book applies the concepts developed by anthropologists working in the field to very different, indeed almost intractable evidence of historical documents. It demonstrates that despite all the problems, it is possible in a realistic and reliable way to develop an analysis of the kinship system as a whole from documents that only describe individual human relationships. Only in this way, Plakans believes, can historians begin to reflect a central element in the experience not of elites but of the masses of ordinary people - the ties of kinship. The book outlines both the difficulties and the advantages of using anthropolgical concepts in historical work in order for the first time to provide a solid basis for important future work.