[Back to Modern Europe Syllabus]

Paul Halsall
Modern Western Civilization

Class 3: Structure of Everyday Life in the Ancien Regime

I. Introduction

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

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

  1. 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)
  2. 1700 average life span 25 (many lived longer) 1800 35 (many lived longer)

B. Growth in Population

C. What Effects Population?

a. Food

  1. Famine as pop control
    Famine foods - bark, chestnuts, grass leads to dysentery and other diseases: people die quickly.
  2. Rich people ate more meat and wine, less fruit and vegetables than poor + white bread - not a healthy diet
  3. Poor ate better bread - but few green vegetables. The potato improves diet in early modern period specially in Ireland and Prussia.
  4. Little sugar and few processed foods in the diet
  5. New Foods: potato, tomato, squash, maize (corn), chocolate
    Up to half current world calories provided by foods domesticated by Amerindians

b. Disease - plague, cholera

  1. a. Plague - 1720 Bubonic Plague killed 40,000 of Marseilles' 90,000 pop.
    - 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 flees
  2. Sanitation - Very few people were clean and few took baths. This does not seem to have improved.
  3. 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) vs. smallpox

c. War

  1. In 18th C. (cf. 17th and 19th. C) involved population less -use of small armies and pitched battles

d. Birth Control

  1. - Withdrawal + barrier methods - effectiveness in France
  2. 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 homes died
  1. The Family
  2. Extended Family vs. Nuclear Family
    1. Nuclear Family very strong in West but in East there were extended families [= Divsion of East and West]
    2. Concept of Household.
    3. Neo-localism - girls often work as servants
    4. Marriage was not early - before 1750
    5. 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]

  1. Concept of childhood different (Aries Thesis)
  2. Parents did love their children - many letters show parents grieving the loss of children.
  3. Child rearing was strict - and in many poor families children had to work.
  4. Education - not very frequent - probably best in Calvinist countries - Scotland and Holland - from mid 17th C. Also schools in Prussia from 1717 and England
  5. 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]

  1. 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 outside
  2. Women and Children
    Breast feeding common chez poor.
    Rich women had wet nurses (whose own child often died as a result)
  3. General oppression of women - no Enlightenment thinker escaped it

VI. Status and Class

  1. Meaning of word "class", notion of "status"
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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

A. Agriculture

  1. At least 80% of the people in 1700 lived on the land - more in East - less in Holland
  2. Open Field system - 1/3 fallow - not in all areas strip farming (run-rig in Scotland)
  3. Common Land for Community Use
  4. - Enclosures in England for crop rotation - beginning of agricultural Rev of later 18th C. -displaced many poor people [the rich cf the poor]
  5. Problems for Farmers
  6. Bad weather and harvests. Weather colder than now until about 1850, a mini-Ice Age, the Thames used to freeze.
  7. Going to be great changes in mid 18th C. -pre Ind. Rev.

B. Peasant Life =Division between East and West Europe

  1. Struggles between nobles and kings
    - In West to peasants advantage
  2. 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
  3. Explanation: rise in prices in 16th c. - due to pop growth made it profitable to farm big estates in East.
  4. Peasants even in West subject to left over "feudal" obligations - called banalites
  5. Peasants often considered scarcely human

C. Industrial Work

  1. 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 first
    -Rural pop growth from 16th C. encourage
    rural pop to take on this sort of work.
  2. 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

  1. 1500 only 4 cities with 100,000 + pop (Paris, Venice, Milan, Naples)
    1800 c. 17 such cities + 363 over 10,000
  2. -Development near Atlantic [Atlantic cf Mediterranean]
  3. -Migration from countryside main cause of population growth.
  4. -Cities - energise populations and accelerate social change.

B. Market cities/Commercial & Shipping cities/Capital cities

C. Classes in Cities

  1. Middle Class - Not Landed money
  2. Artisans - largest group in a city

X. What Divisions in Society led to Problems and Change?

A. Class Divisions?

B. Political Divisions

C. Divisions btw men and women, + adults and children

D. Division between East and West Europe