Early Modern Europe Sept 23rd 2010
3. Life Cycles
a) Birth, Childhood, Adolescence
b) Women + Marriage
c) Maturity + Old Age
How people live becomes the main point of comparison for us.
While we consider ourselves individuals, and the institutions of our life consider us
individuals (school, government, banks, etc) this was not the case in Early Modern
You existed in networks, broad networks, such as blood family or patterned on
High death rate, especially right after birth, aprox. 30-50% of children (depending on
area) die before their first birthday, and another 30% of those who survive die before their
This would have a heavy psychological impact, everyone would be personally exposed
to it, and therefore it becomes part of reality.
They die from natural causes, things like gastro intestinal diseases, malnutrition,
plagues (which tend to affect young people in particular).
As well as "unnatural" causes such as abandonment, however those children would
sometimes be picked up, which leads to the development of "foundling homes" - once
they are developed babies are often left at the doorstep, which could have a turning door,
or a raised platform so the dogs don't get to them.
One of the highest places of infant mortality would be in these foundling homes,
where care was erratic at best. Many times girls who were raped, with the father not
recognizing the child, would have to abandon the child.
Girls are abandoned at a much higher rate than boys.
If they survive, some children stay in the family and are raised in the family, or in
some parts of Europe (in southern Europe and upper class homes) children are sent away
from the home - such as to a wet nurse - within weeks, mainly so the mother can get
along with having another child (nursing reduces their fertility).
Infancy 0-6 Childhood 6 and on
After a few years the child comes home, and around the age six are considered of an
age to raise a living.
Sent out to work to an apprenticeship (baker, tailor, shoemaker, cook etc; if from a
reasonably wealthy family) could learn skills and be a journeyman in teenage years, and
hopefully in young adult life apply to be a master. However this is a small group of the
population, 10-12% Where you go is determined by your father or a male figure of
authority, who signs you away in a contract. We find that a surprisingly few of these
contracts were completely fulfilled.