0Instructional Objectives



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CHAPTER 20

The Changing Life of the People

0Instructional Objectives


After reading and studying this chapter, students should be able to describe eighteenth-century changes in marriage and family life. They should be able to discuss eighteenth-century childhood and assess the evolution of new attitudes towards children. They should also be able to describe the impact of new patterns of consumption and medical care on people’s lives. Finally, they should be able to compare and contrast popular and elite culture and discuss the relationship between the two.

0Chapter Outline0


I0. Marriage and the Family0

A0. Late Marriage and Nuclear Families0

10. The nuclear family was the most common in preindustrial Europe.

20. Common people married late (mostly in their late twenties) in this period.

30. The custom of late marriage combined with the nuclear-family household distinguished European society from other areas in the world.

40. Most people waited to marry until they could support themselves economically.

50. The state attempted to control the sexual behavior of unmarried adults.

B0. Work Away from Home

10. Girls and boys both learned independence by working away from home as servants, apprentices, and laborers.

20. Service in another family’s home was the most common job for single girls.

30. Servant girls worked hard, had little independence, and were in constant danger of sexual exploitation.

40. Boys were subject to verbal and physical abuse, but were less vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault than girls.

50. Prostitutes faced harsh laws in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

C0. Premarital Sex and Community Controls

10. The evidence suggests a low rate of illegitimate births.

20. In rural villages there were tight community controls over premarital sex and adultery.

30. Once married, couples generally had several children.

40. Contraception was used mainly by certain sectors of the urban population.

D0. New Patterns of Marriage and Illegitimacy0

10. Cottage industry enabled young men and women to become independent earlier.

20. Young villagers who moved to the city entered into new sexual relationships free of community control.

30. Rates of illegitimacy rose sharply between 1750 and 1850.

II0. Children and Education0

A0. Child Care and Nursing0

10. Women of the lower classes generally breast-fed their children for a longer period of time than is customary today.

20. The well-off generally hired poor wet nurses to breast-feed their children.

30. Reliance on wet-nurses contributed to high levels of infant mortality.

40. In the second half of the eighteenth century, critics mounted harsh attacks against wet-nursing.

B0. Foundlings and Infanticide

10. Rates of infant mortality were high.

20. Many children were abandoned soon after birth and foundling homes existed to care for some of these children.

30. Infant mortality rates in foundling homes were extremely high.

40. There is some evidence that infanticide remained common.

C0. Attitudes Toward Children

10. There is conflicting evidence about relationships between parents and young children in the eighteenth century.

20. Discipline methods for children were often severe.

30. The Enlightenment sparked a new discourse about childhood and childrearing.

D0. Schools and Popular Literature0

10. Protestants and Catholics encouraged common people to read the Bible.

20. Some European governments encouraged primary school education for children of the common people (Prussia, other Protestant principalities in Germany, Scotland, England, the Austrian Empire).

30. Basic literacy rose rapidly between 1600 and 1800.

40. The growth in literacy promoted a growth in reading.

50. Ordinary people were not completely cut off from the ideas of the Enlightenment.

III0. Food, Medicine, and New Consumption Habits0

A0. Diets and Nutrition

10. The poor ate whole grain bread, beans, peas, and vegetables.

20. The common people of Europe loved meat and eggs, but did not eat them very often.

30. Townspeople had a more diverse diet than that of peasants.

40. The rich gorged on meat, sweets, and liquor.

50. Diets varied regionally.

60. Patterns of food consumption changed markedly over the course of the eighteenth century.

70. New foods introduced from the Americas (corn, squash, tomatoes, potatoes) improved calorie per acre production and nutrition.

80. The most remarkable dietary change was in the consumption of sugar and tea.

B0. Toward a Consumer Society

10. Consumer goods increased in quantity and variety over the course of the eighteenth century.

20. The increasing importance of fashion was particularly noticeable in clothing.

30. Housing reflected the new consumer spirit.

40. The developing consumer society was concentrated in large cities in Northwestern Europe and North America.

C0. Medical Practitioners0

10. Medical practitioners in the 1700s included faith healers, pharmacists, physicians, surgeons, and midwives.

20. Over time women were increasingly excluded from medical practice outside midwifery.

30. Few treatments by any of these practitioners were effective.

40. Surgeons made considerable progress in the eighteenth century.

50. The conquest of smallpox was the century’s greatest medical triumph.

60. Experimentation with inoculation against smallpox led eventually to vaccination with cowpox, which was effective in preventing the disease (Edward Jenner, 1798).

IV0. Religion and Popular Culture0

A0. The Institutional Church0

10. The local parish church remained the basic religious unit all across Europe.

20. Local churches played key roles in community life.

30. Protestants quickly created bureaucratized churches controlled by the secular powers.

40. Catholic rulers increasingly took control of the Catholic Church in their domains (as in Spain).

50. The growth of state power and the weakness of the papacy are exemplified by the experience of the Jesuits in the eighteenth century.

B0. Protestant Revival0

10. Pietism sought to revive the emotional fervor of early Protestantism.

20. Influenced by Pietism, John Wesley (17031791) spread Methodism among the English populace.

C0. Catholic Piety0

10. Catholic authorities tended to compromise with the local elements and festivity of popular Catholicism.

20. Jansenism was Catholicism’s version of the Protestant Pietist movement.

30. Jansenism was an urban phenomenon.

40. Inspired by the Counter-Reformation, Catholic clergy sought increasingly to “purify” popular religious practices.

50. The severity of the attack on popular Catholicism varied widely by country and region.

D0. Leisure and Recreation

10. Carnival illustrates the combination of religious celebration and popular recreation.

20. Towns and cities offered a wide range of amusements.

30. Blood sports were popular with the masses.

40. Within Europe there was a growing division between “high culture” and popular culture, with elite reformers tending to see the latter as sin, superstition, disorder, and vulgarity.


0Lecture Suggestions0


10. “Women and Crime in the Eighteenth Century.” Did women participate in crime in the eighteenth century or were they usually victims? Sources: J. M. Beattie, “The Criminality of Women in Eighteenth-Century England,” Journal of Social History 8 (Summer 1975); M. Boxer and J. Quataert, eds., Connecting Spheres: Women in the Western World, 1500 to the Present (1987).

20. “The Changing Family.” How did the agrarian revolution change the traditional family patterns of Europe? What role did increasing social mobility play in the changing family patterns? Sources: J. Casey, The History of the Family (1987); L. Stone, The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England, 1500–1800 (1977).

30. “Changing Attitudes toward Sexuality.” How did attitudes toward illegitimacy and promiscuity change during this period? Was the eighteenth century any more promiscuous than previous or subsequent ages? Sources: R. Wheaton and T. Harcou, eds., Family and Sexuality in French History (1980); L. Stone, The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England, 1500–1800 (1977).

0Using Primary Sources


Have students view Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s Children’s Games. Have them list as many games as they can find in the painting. Discuss the games. Then have students write an exploratory paper on how the Industrial Revolution might have changed the nature of children’s games. After some students have discussed their hypotheses in their papers, have students read pertinent chapters in W. Baker, Spoils in Western Society (1982), to see a scholar’s interpretation of the problem.

00classroom 0Activities 0


I0. Classroom Discussion Suggestions

A0. Discuss the differences in diet between the peasants and the aristocracy.

B0. Was there a tremendous advance in literacy among the lower orders of society in the eighteenth century?

C0. Discuss the social, dietary, and political importance of the potato.

D0. Discuss infanticide in eighteenth-century Europe.

E0. Lead a discussion on the place of consumer behavior in eighteenth-century society. Prompt students to reflect on the place of consumerism in their own society and on what a society that was not centered on consumption might have been like.

II0. Doing History0

A0. Did Harvey’s discoveries immediately transform the world of medicine? What were doctors really like? Were there instances of quackery and shady medical practices? Sources: M. Romsey, Professional and Popular Medicine in France, 1770–1830: The Social World of Medical Practice (1988); H. Haggard, Devils, Drugs, and Doctors (1929).

B0. After students read selections from the following sources, they should write a short descriptive paper on daily life in a particular European locale. Sources: A. MacFarlane, The Family Life of Ralph Josselin (1970); J. Knyveton, Diary of a Surgeon in the Year 1751–52 (1937); I. C. Drummond and A. Wilbraham, The Englishman’s Food: A History of Five Centuries of English Diet (1958).

C0. Was there time for play and sports in this age of agrarian reform? What pastimes helped Europeans divert themselves from their daily drudgery? Sources: R. Malcolmson, Popular Recreations and Pastimes in England, 1700–1850 (1979); P. Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (1978); M. D. George, London Life in the Eighteenth Century (1965).

III0. Cooperative Learning Activities0

A0. Organize the class into teams. Have each team research food in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe. Each team should prepare a menu of a meal consumed in noble households, farmer’s households, for workers in industrial areas, and by other socioeconomic divisions. Compare the types of food consumed by different socioeconomic groups.

B0. Food in History (Class)

As a follow-up to Activity A above, have teams prepare foods representing socioeconomic groups in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Have each team bring samples of these foods to class. Allow students to taste the dishes. Discuss the kinds of foods and the ways that they were prepared. Also, discuss the nutritional values of these foods.


0Map Activity0


10. On an outline map of Europe, have students identify areas where the Protestant revival occurred as well as those areas that remained strongly Catholic. How might the differences in these areas have been evident in popular culture?

0Audiovisual Bibliography0


10. The London of William Hogarth. (26 min. B/W. International Film Bureau.)

20. Civilization: The Smile of Reason. Parts I and II. (26 min. each. Color. Time-Life Films.)

30. Reminders from the Past. (Videodisc. 50 min. Color. Films for the Humanities and Sciences.)

40. Europe Series: Southern Region. (Videodisc. 20 min. Color. Britannica Videos.)

50. Europe Series: Western Region. (Videodisc. 20 min. Color. Britannica Videos.)

60. William Hogarth (http://www.fortunecity.de/lindenpark/hundertwasser/517/webholks.html)


0internet resources0


10. William Hogarth and Eighteenth-Century Print Culture (http://www.library.northwestern.edu/spec/hogarth/main.html)

20. Everyday Life: Primary Sources (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/modsbook04.html)

30. From Popular to Mass Culture: Primary Sources (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/modsbook04.html)

40. The History of Literacy (http://www.historyliteracy.org/)

50. Thomas Gainsborough (cgfa.sunsite.dk/gainsbor/index.html)

60. Sir Joshua Reynolds (cgfa.sunsite.dk/reynolds/index.html)


00001suggested reading


Among general introductions to the history of the family, women, and children, B. Gottlieb, The Family in the Western World: From the Black Death to the Industrial Age (1993), is recommended. D. Kertzer and M. Barbagli, cited in the Notes, and J. Ehmer, R. Wall, and T. Hareven, eds., Family History Revisited: Comparative Perspectives (2001), provide a rich feast of recent scholarly findings and debates. A. Imhof, Lost Worlds: How Our European Ancestors Coped with Everyday Life and Why Life Is So Hard Today (1996), sheds light on family ties and attitudes toward death, which may be compared with P. Laslett, The World We Have Lost (1965), a pioneering investigation of England before the Industrial Revolution. R. Rudolph, ed., The European Peasant Family and Society: Historical Studies (1995), considers patterns of marriage and family dynamics; K. Lynch, Individuals, Families, and Communities in Europe, 1200–1800 (2003) concentrates on urban families. M. S. Hartman, The Household and the Making of History (2004) and L. Tilly and J. Scott, Women, Work and Family (1978), focus on marriage, family and the household economy. Two valuable introductory works on women are M. Boxer and J. Quataert, eds., Connecting Spheres: European Women in a Globalizing World, 1500 to the Present, 2d ed. (2000), and R. Bridenthal, S. Mosher Stuard, and M. Wiesner, eds., Becoming Visible: Women in European History, 3d ed. (1998). On children and childhood, see H. Cunningham, Children and Childhood in Western Society Since 1500 (1995); and J. Henderson and R. Walls, eds., Poor Women and Children in the European Past (1994). M. Segalen, Love and Power in the Peasant Family: Rural France in the Nineteenth Century (1983), is an exceptionally fine study. B. Lorence-Kot, Child-Rearing and Reform: A Study of Nobility in Eighteenth-Century Poland (1985), stresses the harshness of parental discipline. Various aspects of sexual relationships are treated imaginatively by M. Foucault, The History of Sexuality (1981), and R. Wheaton and T. Hareven, eds., Family and Sexuality in French History (1980).

K. Wrightson, Earthly Necessities: Economic Lives in Early Modern Britain (2000), examines the economics of everyday life. S. Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (1985) places sugar consumption in the context of slavery and plantation agriculture. N. McKendrick, J. Brewer and J.H. Plumb, eds. Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England(1982); J. Brewer and R. Porter, eds. Consumption and the World of Goods (1993); and D. Roche, A History of Everyday Things: The Birth of Consumption in France, 1600–1800 (2000) are invaluable studies of the emergence of western European consumer societies.

J. Knyveton, Diary of a Surgeon in the Year 1751–1752 (1937), gives a contemporary’s unforgettable picture of eighteenth-century medicine as does M. Romsey, Professional and Popular Medicine in France, 1770–1830: The Social World of Medical Practice (1988). Good introductions to the evolution of medical practices include Roy Porter, ed., The Cambridge Illustrated History of Medicine (1996), and A. Digby, Making a Medical Living: Doctors and Patients in the English Market for Medicine, 1720–1991 (1994). J. Carrell, The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox (2003), is a lively popular account. M. Lindemann, Health and Healing in Eighteenth-Century Germany (1996), is a wide-ranging synthesis. H. Marland, ed., The Art of Midwifery: Early Modern Midwives in Europe (1993), discusses developments in several countries and complements L. Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785–1812 (1990), a superb reconstruction. W. Boyd, History of Western Education (1966) is a standard survey, whereas R. Houston, Literacy in Early Modern Europe: Culture and Education, 1500–1800 (1988), is brief and engaging.

Good works on religious life include J. Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire: A New View of the Counter-Reformation (1977); B. Semmel, The Methodist Revolution (1973); and J. Bettey, Church and Community: The Parish Church in English Life (1979). The political impact of Jansenism is provocatively argued in D. Van Kley, The Religious Origins of the French Revolution: From Calvin to the Civil Constitution, 1560–1791 (1996).



P. Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (1978), is an excellent introduction to everyday life, mentalities, and leisure pursuits, as is D. Roche, The People of Paris: An Essay in Popular Culture in the Eighteenth Century (1987). Malcolmson, Popular Recreation in English Society, 1700–1850 (1973), provides a colorful account of boxers, bettors, bullbaiting, and more. G. Rude, The Crowd in History, 1730–1848 (1964), is an influential effort to see politics and popular protest from below.

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