European Social Order in the Ancien Regime
• A question of historiography
1. Who is the proper subject of historical inquiry?
1. A methodical issue
2. Births, deaths, and population growth
3. Marriage and children
4. Geographic mobility (or lack of same)
• Agriculture and farming
1. Subsistence agriculture and diet
a) Agricultural revolution in England
2. Famine and its related diseases
• Change through time
1. High and popular culture
2. Nobles and peasants in a changing world
• The population of Europe grew in a sustained measure in the beginning of the
18 century (1700s).
• How do you comb through that many records?
• This is a society where record keeping was not that big of a deal. The best way to
find records for sources of marriage, death, and birth was through the church.
The local pope did marriages, burials, and baptisms.
• In some parishes the priest was very complete with his record keeping but some
other priests were not so good. These records went through a lot though –
historical accidents, weather, fires, etc.
• The sustained population growth is new. The middle ages did not have the same
growth. Population growth comes from either more children are being born and
living or that people are living longer. In the 17 and 18 century England this
was due to longer living. Infant mortality rates did not change but instead
increased nutrition was encountered. Medicines, better diet, and crops that are
more efficient per acre. People begin to each much better. They are getting more
calories. Corn is grain. Maize is American corn or Indian corn in the new world.
Rice is for the elite. Potatoes were eaten and also had more calories.
• European population started an upward swing and never really stopped.
• Europeans then turned to marriage. The average marriage age was 27 for women
and 29 for men. You are expected to start your own household right away once
married. It was unusual in this time to marry young. it was typical that they had a
kid every 18 months until one of the partners died or one partner became unable.
Intercourse was halted during nursing. European population around this time
was about 51% male. This lead to relatively stable villages.
• Geographic mobility: travel is difficult. If you are fortunate you have an animal
you can ride and if very fortunate you have a carriage. If poor you walked everywhere. Most peasants died within 10 miles of where they were born
because of the vast distances of England. People would name their villages as
their homes not France or England. The peasant villages would help others if one
family got too poor. A downside to this was that its slightly common that if the
harvest in a region fails then villages would just collapse. These little villages do
not like outsiders and if your village collapses then you would become an
outsider. These villages did not like outsiders and did not like change – they were
skeptical of change and change was scary.
• How do you earn your daily bread? Most of Europe 50%-80% are farmers. People
today are nothing like farmers back then. Farmers raised food for themselves to
eat – not to sell.
• Field systems. North European plain (France to Poland). The soil is heavy with
lots of clay and is very thick. It rains a lot and is cold. Long open fields not fenced
in with primarily wheat grown. Secondary crops were other grains – barley, rye,
etc. plowed by oxen primarily because they survive better in cold environments
and were very strong (necessary in the heavy soil). 2-4 oxen teams owned by the
village. Fields are long so that the oxen do not have to turn often. Farmers have
big families because the children are extra hands and can contribute to the wealth
of the family. In this system you drink beer, eat bread (poorer people eat the dark,
coarse, whole grain bread). The richer you are the more processed your bread
(white) is (refined food = refined people). The problem with this diet is getting
something that’s not grains or root vegetables and getting enough food. They
don’t get much meat, they sometimes get eggs and dairy. The only animal they
keep that they do nothing but eat is pig. In this environment you don’t keep
animals to raise them, you raise animals for food.
• In southern Europe (southe