Study Guide Chapter VI. The Struggle for Wealth and Empire
The next two chapters will deal with the cumulative increase of all forms of knowledge and the growing wealth
of Europe. These two developments help form the concept of progress. The new wealth included gold, but more
importantly it involved bank deposits, credit facilities, and improved technology--to bring more comfort, more
books and newspapers, more government revenue, larger armies, and more specialization of work.
28. Elite and Popular Cultures
A. Separation of elite and popular cultures; the elite could participate down but the mass could not move up
without exceptional transformation by education and marriage. The language of the educated became
standardized in a nation; dictionaries were begun and the literacy rate rose. On the other hand, the popular
culture was mainly oral and was much more resistant to change. Wealth produced major differences: The
poor largely ate bread, cabbages and beans; they lived in crude shelters with limited furnishings; they ate
from wooden bowls (and pewter). The homes of the wealthy were larger--more rooms, with glass windows
and mirrors; the rich ate with forks from chinaware. Furnishings began to reflect a concern for style. The
prominent had special social rooms (French salons) with wood paneling, chandeliers, mirrors, and sofas and
Coffee, tea, sugar and tobacco were expensive rarities in 1600 but enjoyed by most by 1789. Whisky and gin
were in greater use, with coffee houses and ale houses/taverns as gathering places for the “middling.” “Gin
Lane,” pictured by Hogarth in 1750, illustrated the degrading poverty of London. Polite manners became
more important to the elite; parties were times of polite conversation and stylish dances like the minuet.
Popular books became common--almanacs with astrology, weather, proverbial advice, or “how to” books on
behavior. Religion normally brought the classes together; in large towns, some churches would be
“fashionable.” Many of the poor did not often go to church. The elite culture, becoming skeptic, was also less
religious. Diseases were shared, though famine and plague were more likely to strike the poor, crowded in
their slums. In 1600, superstitions and belief in magic and witches were common to all; by 1700, they were
mainly among the poor. In 1600, both shared delight in fairs, with jugglers, acrobats, traveling musicians,
cockfights and bear baiting; and in Carnival, celebrated in the weeks before Lent; a common theme was “the
world turned upside down” --role reversal. By 1700, the elite was a spectator at most. The gulf between
classes widened as the elite took to more formal manners and to neoclassicism in literature and the arts.
Curiously, by 1800 the elite rediscovered the people and interest in folk ballads and fairy tales.
29. The Global Economy of the Eighteenth Century
A. Commerce and Industry of the 18th Century
Merchant capitalism, domestic industry, and mercantilism grew rapidly. While most nations were still
rural/agricultural (in 1789 only 50 cities had over 50,000 people), many rural people were employed in the
domestic system of industry. Though domestic trade provided the largest volume, foreign trade had
become vital, with the largest enterprises, the greatest commercial fortunes, the most capital. And from it the
wars of the century grew.
B. The World Economy: Dutch, British, French
Dutch: political power was gone, but it still led commerce, shipping, and finance; its efficient ships had
the lowest shipping rates and were the carriers for the world. Many East India companies formed,
including Prussian, Swedish, Venetian--but only the French, Dutch, British survived: they had the capital
and the diplomatic, military, naval support. The winners made immense profits, with Britain dominant in
Asia and America, France leader in Europe and the Middle East.
C. Asia, America, and Africa in the World Economy
1. Asian trade was a gold drain, since Asians rejected European manufactured goods while Europeans
wanted silks, porcelains, spices, teas --and Indian cottons. Britain paid with gold from Ghana, the “Gold
Coast,” minting the coin still called the guinea. Europe gradually began to compete, manufacturing
carpets and “bone china”. But Indian cottons were in such demand that England passed strong
protectionist laws -- leading to smuggling.
2. America: trade base was sugar, brought from Asia ca. 1650, and the plantation system: tract of land,
capital investment, slave labor. The West Indies sugar trade was greater than the value of all Asia trade
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