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LIFE IN EARLY MODERN EUROPE, 1500-1650 PowerPoint Presentation
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  2. INTRO: SETTING THE SCENE • The scene of communal farming is repeated with little variation throughout Europe in the early modern era • With one bed per household, the family was obviously close-knit • There was no running water, no central heat, no bathrooms, and no electricity • A 16th century prince endured greater material hardship than a 20th century welfare recipient • The whole family performed physical labor reminding us that the life of the ordinary people of the early modern era was not romantic

  3. EUROPEANS SHARED EXPERIENCES • While there was no typical 16th century European, there were shared experiences • Agriculture increased as more land was cleared and more crops were grown • The century-long population explosion and increase in commodity prices fundamentally altered lives

  4. RURAL LIFE THE NORM • In the early modern era, as much as 90% of the European population lived on farms or in small towns where farming was the principal occupation • Villages were small and isolated • They ranged in size from 20-100 families • The village was the bedrock of the 16th century state • The manor, the parish and the rural administrative district were the institutional frameworks

  5. PEASANT BUDGET • Manorial rents supported the lifestyle of the nobility; parish tithes supported the Church; local taxes supported the power of the state • Rents, tithes, and taxes absorbed more than half of the wealth produced by the peasant • From the remaining half, the peasant had to make provisions for the present and future Tithes

  6. SURVIVAL • To survive, the village had to be self-sufficient • Hard times meant hunger and starvation – both of which were accepted as part of the natural order • One in three harvests was bad; one in five was disastrous • Depending on the soil and crop, between one-fifth and one-half of the grain harvested had to saved as seed for the next year

  7. HOUSING • Hunger and cold were constant companions of the average European • Especially in Scandinavia and Muscovy, winter posed as great a threat as starvation • Most homes were made of wood and roofed in thatch • Walls were patched with dry mud and the ground was leaves or straw • The typical home was one large room with a hearth at one end

  8. Thatched homes

  9. HOME FURNISHINGS • People had few household possessions • The essential piece of furniture was the wooden chest, which was used for storage • A typical family could keep all their possessions in the chest, which could then be buried or carried away in times of danger • The chest could also be used as a table or bench

  10. THE KITCHEN • Most domestic activities, including cooking, eating and sleeping, took place close to the ground, thus sitting, squatting, and kneeling were the usual positions • Most family possessions related to food production • Iron spits and pots were treasured possessions • Most kitchen items were made of wood, including long-handled spoons, trenchers (boards for cutting and eating), cups and bowls • Knives were essential but forks were still a curiosity ?

  11. ISOLATION • Up at dawn, asleep at dusk; long working hours in summer, short ones in winter • For most, the world was bounded by the distance that could be traveled only by foot • Most died never seeing more than a hundred other people or hearing anything louder than a human voice or thunder • Their wisdom was based solely on experience For many Europeans, the village was where they were born, lived, and died

  12. AGRICULTURE – THE PLAINS • Peasant life centered on agriculture • While technology and technique varied little across the continent, there were significant differences depending on climate, soil and the animals they raised • Across the great plain (Low Countries to Poland) the three-crop rotation was the norm • Grain composed 75% of the calories of a typical diet • 1) Winter- wheat • 2) Spring – barley, peas, beans • 3) Fallow (idle) More than 80% of crops grown were consumed on the farm

  13. AGRICULTURE – THE MED • The warm and dry climate of the Mediterranean favored a two-crop rotation • With less water and stronger sunlight, half the land had to be left fallow each year to restore the nutrients • Grapes and olives were staple crops as meat was less plentiful Olive trees are everywhere in the Mediterranean

  14. AGRICULTURE – THE MOUNTAINS • The mountainous and hilly regions of Europe depended on animal husbandry for subsistence • Sheep were the most common animal raised by Europeans • Sheep provided the raw material for most clothing, their skin was used for parchment and window covers and they were an inexpensive source of meat • Pigs were domesticated in the woodland regions • Cattle were largely “farm animals” utilized most extensively in Hungary and Bohemia

  15. LAND – KEY RESOURCE • Because agriculture was the principal occupation of Europeans, land was the principal resource • Most land was owned by lords who rented it out in various ways • The land was divided into manors, and the manor lord, or seigneur, was responsible for maintaining order, justice, and arbitrating disputes

  16. THE MANOR • On a manor there was a village, church, lord's house or castle, and the farmland upon which the people worked • The peasants had requirements they had to fulfill in order to live there which involved farming the lord's land and paying rents with food

  17. PEASANTS AND THE LAND • In western Europe, peasants generally owned between one-third and one-half of the land they worked • In eastern Europe peasants owned little if any land • In return for rent, peasants used the land as they saw fit and could hand it down to their children • While rent payment in the form of coin occurred, most often the lord received a fixed amount of the crop yield or labor (labor service called the robot in eastern Europe and the corvee in France) • German and Hungarian peasants owed 2-3 days per week, while Polish peasants owed as much as 4 days of labor

  18. FARM WORK • Farm work was ceaseless toil • The draught animals were critical elements of any farm and the birth of foals and calves were celebrated more than the birth of a child and the death of an ox or horse was a catastrophe

  19. THE RHYTHM OF THE DAY • Men and women worked to the natural rhythm of the day • Up at dawn, at work in the cooler hours, at rest in the hotter hours • Rain kept them idle, sun busy • In the summer the laborers met at 4 a.m. and in the winter 7a.m. • Wages were paid by the hours worked: 7 in winter and as many as 16 in the summer

  20. GUILDS ORGANIZE LABOR • In all towns there was an official guild structure that organized and regulated labor • Rules laid down the requirements for training, standards for quality, and the conditions for exchange • Only those officially sanctioned could work in trades, and each trade could perform only specific tasks

  21. ACUTE POVERTY • Urban poverty was endemic and grew worse as the century wore on • In most towns, as much as a quarter of the entire population might by destitute, living on day labor, charity, or crime • In the countryside conditions could be worse as no formal agencies for relief existed • The urban poor more often suffered from disease than starvation

  22. LARGE TOWN VS. SMALL TOWN • In larger towns a greater variety of occupations and a greater reliance of wage earnings set it apart from smaller towns • Occupations were usually organized geographically, with metal or glass working in one quarter of town, brewing or baking in another • There was a strong family and kin network to the occupations, which were handed down from parents to children

  23. WOMEN’S OCCUPATIONS • Women in larger towns had more job options than their country counterparts • Being mid-wives or nurses were two options available to women in larger towns • Prostitution was officially sanctioned in most large towns in the modern era • Brothels were subject to taxation and governmental control

  24. MAJORITY: UNSKILLED LABORERS • Most town dwellers were unskilled laborers • Day laborers, hauling or lifting goods on carts or boats, stacking materials at building sites, or delivering food or water were the main day-laboring jobs • As the century progressed the number of laborers exceeded the number of jobs and many sought servant jobs

  25. DOMESTIC LABOR • Domestic labor was a critical source of household labor • Even those families of marginal means employed servants to help in the numerous household tasks • Commonly, household servants did not advance in status and frequently changed employers in hope of better conditions

  26. IMPORTING GRAIN • Towns often survived by importing grain from rural communities • All towns had municipal storehouses of grain to preserve their inhabitants in time of famine • Grain prices were strictly regulated and subsidized • The average laborer’s diet consisted of meat, soup, vegetables, wine and beer

  27. 16th CENTURY POPULATION INCREASE • During the 16th century, the European population increased by about a third (from 80 million to 105 million) • Western European growth was especially significant in the first half of the century while eastern European growth was steady throughout the century • Europe had finally recovered from the plague and by 1600 its population was at a high point • Fifteen cities more than doubled their populations, with London increasing 400%

  28. EFFECT OF POPULATION GROWTH - POSITIVE • Early in the century, the growth brought prosperity as the land was not farmed to capacity, and the extra hands increased production • As the rural areas filed the spillover went to small towns and cities Initially, land was available in the early 16th century

  29. EFFECT OF POPULATION GROWTH - NEGATIVE • There is a natural limit to the number of people that could profit from a given industry, and by mid-century Europeans were experiencing saturation in many industries • Most apprenticeships were limited and guilds enforced restrictions on new entrants • By mid-century a glut in the workforce forced real wages (purchasing power) to fall

  30. PRICE REVOLUTION • The fall of real wages took place during a period of inflation known as the Price Revolution • For example, between 1500-1650 cereal prices increased 5 times and manufactured goods doubled in price • Most of the increase took place in the second half of the 16th century as a result of population increase and the import of gold and silver from the New World • The Price Revolution impacted government finances and trade throughout the continent

  31. IMPACT OF PRICE REVOLUTION • As a result of the steep rise in prices, some people became destitute; others became rich • Towns were especially hard hit due to the enormous increase in grain • Those who grew their own food were more insulated from the effects, while those who counted on their subsistence from labor were in greater peril

  32. CYCLE NOW TURNS VICIOUS • Those who had sold and left their land to seek prosperity in towns were forced to return to the land as agrarian laborers • In western Europe, they became landless poor, seasonal migrants without the safety net of communal living – by 1600 many were starving • In eastern Europe, the landed nobility solidified their position

  33. SOCIAL LIFE • In the early modern era, the group rather than the individual was the predominant unit in society • The first level of the social order was the family and the household • Next, was the village or town community • Finally, the gradations of ranks in society at large; each group had its own place and performed its own functions

  34. HIERARCHY • Hierarchy was the dominant principle of social organization in the early modern era • Hierarchy at every level existed; lords & commoners, master & apprentice, government official & citizen, landholder & landless, husband & wife, parent & child

  35. SOCIAL STATUS • Status, not wealth, determined hierarchy in society • Status was apparent everywhere • It involved bowing and hat doffing, clothing, and food • Status was significant in titles including nobles, goodmen and goodwives, squires, and ladies • The acceptance of status was an uncomplicated, unreflective act, similar to stopping at a red light • Inequality was a fact of European social life that was unquestioned

  36. GREAT CHAIN OF BEING • To reinforce the social hierarchy, images such as The Great Chain of Being were perpetuated • The Great Chain of Being was a description of the universe in which everything had a place, from God to rocks

  37. THE BODY POLITIC • Another metaphor used to reinforce societal hierarchy was the idea of the Body Politic • In this “body” the head ruled, the arms protected, the stomach nourished, and the feet labored • The image depicted a small community as well as a large state • The king was the head, the Church the soul, the nobles the arms, the artisans the hands, and the peasants the feet • Each performed its own vital function • Both the Great Chain and the Body Politic were conservative concepts of social organization designed to maintain the status quo

  38. NOBLES • Nobility was a legal status that conferred certain privileges to its holders • Rank and title provided a well-defined place at the top of the social order that was passed from generation to generation • The escutcheon – coat of arms – was a universally recognized symbol of rank and family connectionwhether you were a prince, duke, earl, count, or baron Arms of Hughes of Tipperary

  39. POLITICAL CLOUT • Among the most important privileges held by nobles involved political influence • In most countries the highest offices of the state and military were reserved for members of the nobility • In Europe, various diets and political bodies were often composed strictly of nobles

  40. ECONOMIC CLOUT • Additionally, nobles enjoyed economic privileges as a result of their rank and role as lords of their land • In almost every nation, nobles were exempt from taxation • The nobles of eastern and central Europe benefited greatly from these exemptions

  41. MILITARY OBLIGATIONS • Initially, nobles were considered a warrior class that was expected to raise, equip, and lead troops into battle • By the 16th century, military needs of the state surpassed the nobles ability to provide it • Warfare had become a national enterprise that required central coordination • Nobles had become administrators as a new “service” nobility emerged

  42. GOVERNMENT OBLIGATIONS • Nobles also had the obligation of governing at both the local and national level • At the discretion of the ruler, a noble could be called upon to engage in any governmental occupation • Additionally, they expected to provide for the needy and maintain good relationships with the peasants that worked their land

  43. THE TOWN ELITE • Over the course of the 16th century, a new urban elite emerged • They enjoyed many of the same political and economic privileges of the rural nobles • However, many members of this new social class were caught between the nobles and the commoners – despised from above and envied from below The urban elite was largely a western European phenomenon

  44. THE GENTRY • As the century progressed the accumulation of large estates by non-nobles increased • They received rents and dues, administered their estates, and provided for their peasants – all without the traditional “rank” • In England, the group came to be known as the gentry, and there were parallel groups in Spain, France and the Empire In England, the gentry had the right to a coat of arms and could be knighted, but the position was not hereditary and the gentry could not belong to the House of Lords

  45. CITIZENS VS. NON-CITIZENS • The order of rank below the town elite, pertained to the type of work that one performed • Citizenship was restricted to membership in certain occupations and guilds • While it could be purchased, most citizenship status was earned through mastering a profession after a period of apprenticeship • Only males could become citizens

  46. TRANSFORMATION OF THE TRADITIONAL SOCIAL HIERARCHY The New Rich: • During the early modern period, traditional social hierarchy changed • Why? Population increase meant more governors to perform military, political and social functions of the state • Second, opportunities to accumulate wealth increased dramatically during the Price Revolution – individuals could rapidly increase their economic position via gold, silver, or selling commodities • Profits from state service (tax collection, officeholding, law) proved lucrative, too

  47. TRANSFORMATION OF THE TRADITIONAL SOCIAL HIERARCHY The New Poor: • Social change was equally apparent at the bottom of the social scale • Population increase created a group of landless poor who squatted in villages and clogged the streets of towns and cities • As many as one in four Europeans were destitute • Traditionally, local communities (especially the Church) cared for the poor • As the century progressed, local efforts at poor relief were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of needy • Crime increased throughout the modern era as well Beggars soon became separated into the “deserving poor” and the so-called “sturdy beggars”

  48. PEASANT REVOLT • One consequence of the economic and social changes of the 16th century was an increase in violent confrontations between peasants and their lords • Most revolts involved peasant leaders, petitions, and an organized rank and file with moderate political demands • Peasant revolts were viewed as such a threat to social order that they were put down with the severest repression and brutally Peasant revolts were usually organized and well-planned, but always met with disaster

  49. GERMAN PEASANTS’ WAR • By far the most widespread peasant revolt of the 16th century, the German Peasants’ War involved tens of thousands of peasants and combined a series of agrarian grievances with an awareness of Luther’s new religious spirit • Although he had a large following among peasants, Luther advised them to passively accept their fate • The peasants disregarded his advice and organized large armies led by experienced soldiers

  50. AGRARIAN CHANGES • Peasant frustration was not typically aimed at their lords, rather their anger was a product of agrarian changes brought on by population increase and market production • Many of the traditional rights and obligations of the lords and peasants gave way to the need for more land and crops • One important example was forest rights • As land became more scarce, lords and peasants battled over common forest land and wild game Nobles wanted the forest for their wild game, while the peasants objected to the game eating their crops