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Chapter 15

Textbook Notes - Chapter 15 (Society & Economy)

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University of Guelph
HIST 1010
Peter Goddard

History Chapter 15: Society and Economy Under the Old Regime in the Eighteenth Century The Western Heritage: Tenth Edition (Volume B: 1300-1815) by Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment and Frank M. Turner Overview The "ancient regime" (old regime in French) is a term applied to European social, economic, and political development before the French Revolution of 1789. Though conditions varied throughout Europe, culture was generally traditional and corporate. Population growth drove up staple food prices, which in turn increased landowners' incomes and allowed them to invest in new techniques and forms of organization for farming; this was the basis for the Agricultural Revolution. The economy of scarcity, meanwhile, was being replaced by the demand for consumption, which both fueled and was fueled by the Industrial Revolution. As the production of first textiles, and then other goods, was re-organized, female labor was devalued and "women's work" became a pejorative term. Urbanization increased, and new pressures on the family and other social structures emerged. Aristocrats, the bourgeoisie, and the artisan class competed for resources and influence; peasants were generally conservative, focusing on efforts to retain traditional privileges. Jews lived without political rights or social standing throughout most of Europe, though as in many aspects of social history during this period the situation was slightly better in Britain than on the Continent. After reading this chapter you should understand: The power and privilege of the aristocracy and how they were maintained. The struggle of rural peasants to survive. Family structure and family economy. Population growth and the expansion of cities. The impact of the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. The revolution in consumption. Ghettos and the status of European Jews. Key topics: the varied privileges and powers of Europes aristocracies in the Old Regime and their efforts to increase their wealth the plight of rural peasants family structure and family economy the transformation of Europes economy by the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions urban growth and the social tensions that accompanied it the strains on the institutions of the Old Regime brought about by social change During the French Revolution and the turmoil that upheaval spawned, it became customary to refer to the patterns of social, political, and economic relationships that had existed in France before 1789 as the ancien regime or the Old Regime. Major Features of Life in the Old Regime Pre-evolutionary Europe was based on (1) aristocratic elites possessing a wide variety of inherited legal privileges; (2) established church intimately related to the state and the aristocracy; (3) an urban labour force usually organized into guilds; and () a rural peasantry subject to high taxes and feudal dues. Maintenance of Tradition past weighed more heavily than future, on minds of people the quality and quantity of the grain harvest remained the most important fact of life for most of the population and the gravest concern for governments Hierarchy and Privilege medieval sense of rank and degree became more rigid; laws regulating dress of different classes (ineffective) no individual rights rights were guaranteed to particular communities or groups of which s/he was a part of o community = village, nobility, church, guild university privileges may include exemption from taxation or tithe, humiliating punishment, right to practice trade/craft, right for children to pursue particular occupation The Aristocracy Nobility = 1-5% of population - had wealthiest sector (had own house) - widest degree of social, political and economic power (manual labour was below nobility) - set tone of polite society Varieties of Aristocratic Privilege To be an aristocrat was a matter of birth and legal privilege British Nobility: smallest, wealthiest, best defined, most socially responsible in Great Britain o 400 families, eldest male members of each family sat in House of Lords families also controlled many seats in House of Commons younger sons moved into commerce, the army, professions, church o estates amounted from a few thousand to 50,000 acres, receiving rents o nobles owned of all arable land in the country o invested its wealth in commerce, annals, urban real estate, mines industrial ventures French Nobility: approximately 400,000 nobles divided between nobles of the sword or of the robe th o these two groups quarrelled in the past, but cooperated during 18 century to defend common privileges o divided between those who held office or favour with royal court at Versailles and those who did not by late 1780s, appointments to church, army, bureaucracy and other profitable positions tended to go to nobles already established in court circles o hobereaux provincial nobility (were a little better off than wealthy peasants) o exempt from many taxes o technically liable for payment of the vingtieme or the twentieth (like an income tax) but rarely paid it in full o not liable for royal corvees forced labour on public works fell on peasants o could collect feudal dues from tenants, enjoyed exclusive hunting and fishing privileges Eastern European Nobilities:o East of Elbe River military traditions of aristocracy remained important Poland thousands of nobles (szlachta), exempt from taxes after 1741 Until 1768 possessed right of life and death over serfs Most Polish nobility were poor Austria and Hungary possess broad judicial powers over peasantry Enjoyed various degrees of exemption from taxes Prince Esterhazy of Hungary, owned 10 million acres of land Prussia after accession of Frederick the Great in 1740, Junker nobles became stronger; extended judicial power over serfs Russia creation of nobility Peter the Great (r 1682-1725) linking state service and noble social status through Table of Ranks (1722) 1736 Empress Anna (r 1730-1740) 1762 Peter III exempted greatest nobles from compulsory service 1785 Charter of the Nobility, Catherine the Great (r 1762-1796) legally defined the rights and privileges of noble men and women privileges transmission of noble status to wife & children, judicial protection of noble rights and property, power over serfs, exemption from personal taxes Aristocratic Resurgence th Aristocratic Resurgence: Term applied to the 18 century aristocratic efforts to resist the expanding power of European monarchies. - reaction to the threat to nobilitys social position and privilege, took several forms
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