[Back to Modern Europe Syllabus]
Modern Western Civilization
Class 3: Structure of Everyday Life in the Ancien
We will be looking most often at elite culture/thought and politics,
but we need to look at how most people lived.
II. Chronology and Periodization
- 16th century to mid-18th century.
- Early Modern Europe - before transformation of material life
following Ind. Rev.
- Some question as to difference with the middle ages.
Different rates of change throughout Europe. [Anecdote - In France
1980 - Chateau de Detilly, good food + swimming pool - but also
a man in distance using oxen and plough.]
III. Population - Background to Society, Economics and Politics
A. High Fertility and Mortality Rates
- Infant Mortality rates very high at least 1/5, 1/3 in rural
areas, plus a high death rate in later childhood (all Edward Gibbons
brothers called Edward - only he survived to adulthood)
- 1700 average life span 25 (many lived longer) 1800 35 (many
B. Growth in Population
- Doubles in 16th Century. Possibly due to recovery from late
Middle Age plagues.
- Less in 17th Century, but still some. Possibly to do with
30 Years War.
- Explosive growth in 18th Century (not clear what came first
pop. or agricultural change)
-reasons not certain
-poss. less plague + potato
-Growth took place before the Industrial revolution.
C. What Effects Population?
- Famine as pop control
Famine foods - bark, chestnuts, grass leads to dysentery and other
diseases: people die quickly.
- Rich people ate more meat and wine, less fruit and vegetables
than poor + white bread - not a healthy diet
- Poor ate better bread - but few green vegetables. The potato
improves diet in early modern period specially in Ireland and
- Little sugar and few processed foods in the diet
- New Foods: potato, tomato, squash, maize (corn), chocolate
Up to half current world calories provided by foods domesticated
b. Disease - plague, cholera
- a. Plague - 1720 Bubonic Plague killed 40,000 of Marseilles'
- last time plague fell on West or Central Europe
-use of quarantine in Med. ports + a new sort of brown rat c,
1600 drove out more infectious black rat and its human loving
- Sanitation - Very few people were clean and few took baths.
This does not seem to have improved.
- Medicine - not a major factor until later
- demonic view of medicine chez some doctors (cf. AIDS)
- many quack medicines
- no anesthetics
-[Mention effectiveness of some old wives tales green potatoes
and pregnant women for instance.]
late 18th C, (Edward Jenner 1796 - Vaccination (Cowpox/Vaccina)
- In 18th C. (cf. 17th and 19th. C) involved population less
-use of small armies and pitched battles
d. Birth Control
- - Withdrawal + barrier methods - effectiveness in France
- Infanticide (St., Vincent de Paul - tried to help foundlings
- children left on church steps)- in 1770 1/3 of all babies in
Paris left to foundling hospitals - 50 to 90% of babies in such
- The Family
- Extended Family vs. Nuclear Family
- Nuclear Family very strong in West but in East there were
extended families [= Divsion of East and West]
- Concept of Household.
- Neo-localism - girls often work as servants
- Marriage was not early - before 1750
- Illegitimacy more common later on - only after 1750
-growing freedom of thought
-growing need to seek work away from home
-laws in Germany in particular vs. poor getting married
-growth in urban centers - more prostitution
-also in urban centers - sex in hope of getting married
B. Children [= Division between adults and children]
- Concept of childhood different (Aries Thesis)
- Parents did love their children - many letters show parents
grieving the loss of children.
- Child rearing was strict - and in many poor families children
had to work.
- Education - not very frequent - probably best in Calvinist
countries - Scotland and Holland - from mid 17th C. Also schools
in Prussia from 1717 and England
- Literacy grew 1600-1800
1600 1/6 literate in France and Scotland
1800 90% in Scotland, 2/3 literate in France
[Problem of defining literacy]
V. Women's Position [= Division between women and men]
- A. Women's Life
Aim of many women was maintenance of her parents, then her own
household. Women had to be part of a household to be safe - vulnerable
- Women and Children
Breast feeding common chez poor.
Rich women had wet nurses (whose own child often died as a result)
- General oppression of women - no Enlightenment thinker escaped
VI. Status and Class
- Meaning of word "class", notion of "status"
- Explain notion of Three Estates
Division of Nobles, Clergy, the Rest
1. Nobility: fighters - but did not fight
-Britain had small, rich aristocracy (peerage).
-France had many, 5% of pop: many were poor (Hoberaux).
-Prussia aristocrats part of military state - Junkers.
2. Clergy: pray-ers, but after 1648 less important
3. The Rest: workers, still worked
- Explain reality of Third Estate
-only politically active groups counted.
-Third Estate not important politically until 18th C.
-divided into urban and country, rich and poor.
- Growth of Bourgeoisie
Explain concept - Merchants, people with money - in towns - more
important as money economy took off.
VII. Work =Division between industrial and agricultural
- At least 80% of the people in 1700 lived on the land - more
in East - less in Holland
- Open Field system - 1/3 fallow - not in all areas strip farming
(run-rig in Scotland)
- Common Land for Community Use
- - Enclosures in England for crop rotation - beginning of agricultural
Rev of later 18th C. -displaced many poor people [the rich cf
- Problems for Farmers
- Bad weather and harvests. Weather colder than now until about
1850, a mini-Ice Age, the Thames used to freeze.
- Going to be great changes in mid 18th C. -pre Ind. Rev.
B. Peasant Life =Division between East and West Europe
- Struggles between nobles and kings
- In West to peasants advantage
- In East nobles given more power
-Serfdom GROWS in early modern period after breaking down in HMA
(ref to Russian Revolution)
-Polish nobles from 1573 could inflict death penalty on peasants
-Prussia 1653 - peasants made subject by heredity to lords.
-Russia 1603 - peasants right of leaving land abolished
- Explanation: rise in prices in 16th c. - due to pop growth
made it profitable to farm big estates in East.
- Peasants even in West subject to left over "feudal"
obligations - called banalites
- Peasants often considered scarcely human
C. Industrial Work
- Move to countryside
-first occurred in England in 15th and 16th C.
spreads through out Europe in 18th c.
-move from Urban shops to Families in countryside textiles - wool
-cheaper work - it was "additional" to rural life at
-Rural pop growth from 16th C. encourage
rural pop to take on this sort of work.
- Putting-out system - emphasizes importance of commerce
impt for Ind, Rev
-Merchant-Capitalists [capitalists cf. workers]
-EMPHASISE importance of textiles in Ind. Rev.
IX. Towns =Division between town life and country life
A. Growth in 1500-1800
- 1500 only 4 cities with 100,000 + pop (Paris, Venice, Milan,
1800 c. 17 such cities + 363 over 10,000
- -Development near Atlantic [Atlantic cf Mediterranean]
- -Migration from countryside main cause of population growth.
- -Cities - energise populations and accelerate social change.
B. Market cities/Commercial & Shipping cities/Capital
C. Classes in Cities
- Middle Class - Not Landed money
- Artisans - largest group in a city
X. What Divisions in Society led to Problems and Change?
A. Class Divisions?
- -No important political place for newly socially important
Urban Middle Class. Especially in France and England
- -Peasants resented leftovers of feudal dues Led to rebellion
- esp. in Fr. Rev
- -Division between the taxed and the untaxed (class division
in another way) was to lead to problems for governments
B. Political Divisions
- Division between Kings and Subjects
- -absolutism only works for certain very competent rulers.
- -problems even when you get not just bad, but average rulers.
C. Divisions btw men and women, + adults and children
- not addressed until very much later - if ever
D. Division between East and West Europe
- led to different development - eventually more explosive change
in East in early 20th C. + no democratic tradition