Rural Society in Early Modern times I (Steve Hindle)

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 17-05-18 16:38
View mindmap
  • Rural Society in Early Modern times I (Steve Hindle)
    • Landscapes and victuals
      • Most Europeans lived in rural surroundings in settlements of less than 5000 inhabitants
        • Remained true until middle of 18thC
      • Braudel
        • Environmental conditions were highly varied
          • Crucial factors of early modern experience in a seminal study of Mediterranean world
          • Ranged from Atlantic and Alpine to harsh Continental climates
          • From coastal regions to fertile plains to mountainous areas
          • From soils suitable for cereal farming and viticulture to those more appropriate for grazing and market gardening
      • Prominent European products included:
        • Barely and wheat in the north
        • Olives and grapes in the south
        • Imports from the New World
          • Maize in some areas (like Northern Italy) from late 16th C
          • Potatoes towards end of our period
      • Typical diet for vast majority of population
        • Cereal based
        • Average European ate less meat in the seventeenth century than his ancestors had done in the late Middle Ages
        • Men, and to lesser extent women, drank wine (in south and west) and beer (in north and east of Continent) on a regular basis
        • Variables like region prosperity and seasons affected consumption of other key victuals like vegetables, fruit, fish, spices and dairy products
        • Rhythms of plenty and want - both across agricultural year and over longue duree from 1500-1800 - remained basic characteristics of early modern rural life
          • According to Albala
    • Importance of the harvest
      • Agriculture central to everyday concerns of most European families
      • In rural society, virtually all men, women and children were involved at various levels in agrarian economy
        • As producers of foodstuffs either for provisions of their own households or for sale at market
        • As processors of agricultural goods
          • Especially wool for textiles and hides for leather
          • In manufacturing industries (commonly located in countryside)
        • As purchasers both of food and drink and of consumer goods
        • Harvest was heartbeat of whole economy
      • Dependency on weather (fundamental)
        • in most parts of Europe (according to Overton)
          • Typically sized 20-acre holding might be expected to feed a family of five
          • In a 'normal' harvest year, when yield seed ratios of 4:1 prevailed
            • 20 acres might produce as much as a pound in weight of bread per person per day for three people
              • Provided enough was kept back for seed corn
          • More productive soil and better weather might result in yield-seed ratio of 8:1 which characterised super-abundant harvest.
            • Could feed as many as 10 extra people
          • falling ratios characteristic of poor terrain or disappointing weather might, have devastating impact:
          • Throughout 16th and 17th C
            • Estimated yield-seed ratios of about 6:1 were most that most that more productive regions of Europe could be excepted to produce
      • Agricultural economy provided little more than precarious living for most self-provisioning households
        • Budgets teetering on margins of balance
        • Posed very serious questions about many families' capacity to pay rent
          • Especially if landlord demanded payment in cash
      • Many farmers dependent on selling goods and labour services to their landlords in order to keep roof over their heads
      • Position of landless labourers
        • Who could not self-provision from arable plots
        • Even more precarious
        • Quality  of diet rested  on their ability to pay market price
          • by definition dependent both on medium-term levels of supply and demand and on short-term vicissitudes of scarcity and plenty
      • Economic fortunes bound up in quality of harvest
        • Given need to keep proportion of crop for next year
          • Had implications not only for immediate consumption but following years' production
      • Years of scarcity (or dearth) were in fact very common throughout early modern society
        • In period between 1480 and 1620, one in four harvests could be classified as poor
        • Some years, especially in adverse weather conditions of mid-1540s, late 1590s and early 1620s
          • Were disastrous with runs of two, three and even four consecutive harvest failures
            • Caused:
              • Dearth
              • Famine
              • Crisis in subsistence characterised not only by increased mortality but falling fertility
        • Most generations would have experienced dearth at least once during their lifetimes
          • with only more productive agricultural economies of Northern and Western Europe especially in low-land zone of British archipelago, avoiding shadow of harvest failure before 1700, perhaps even 1650
            • Walter and Schofield
              • Most generations would have experienced dearth at least once during their lifetimes
                • with only more productive agricultural economies of Northern and Western Europe especially in low-land zone of British archipelago, avoiding shadow of harvest failure before 1700, perhaps even 1650
                  • Walter and Schofield
        • Malthusian trap
          • Even where there were runs of good harvests, contemporaries could never be entirely confident this hadn't been sprung
          • Diaries and correspondence of period are full of neurotic concern about implications of summer rainfall
          • Fear of creeping malnutrition, if not actual starvation, stalked most of Europe until agricultural revolution of late 18th and early 19th C
        • Harvest shocks had profound implications for industrial activity in countryside
          • Most manufacturing involved making of consumer goods from agricultural products
          • Much trading activity depended on supply of woolen cloth
          • Implications for rural industry of falling demand for manufactured goods in those days when harvest failures forced households in town and countryside alike to spend more of their income on earthly  necessities of food and drink

    Comments

    No comments have yet been made

    Similar History resources:

    See all History resources »See all Rural Society resources »