Peasants in the 18th Century Essay

662 Words 3 Pages
Peasants in the 18th Century


When studying 18th century history one will often read about insightful intellects, powerful leaders, or even great military figures, but generally overlooked are the common people. These men, women, and children that make up the peasant society paid the taxes that supported militaries, upheld the land, and, in turn, contributed to history equally to the aforementioned figures. In the 18th century French peasants made up eighty to eighty five percent of the population, yet their presence in the culture is not focused on. The hardships that peasants went through, from poverty to malnutrition and even death, molded the peasant society into a culture of its own.
People with an abundance of wealth and
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The family's expenses and responsibilities included taxes, tithes to the church, and feeding the family. By the end of the 18th century millions of these people in poverty went searching for a better life, but found themselves in a life of smugglers, highwaymen, pickpockets, and prostitutes (26).
Along with poverty came a problem for virtually all peasants: diet. In Merry E. Wiesner's "A Statistical view of European Rural Life 1600-1800" it shows that the common peasants diet included bread, cheese, and butter. Because of strict laws forbidding hunting, meat was rarely part of their diet, which led them to be malnourished, since they did not meet the daily requirements in all of the food groups needed for a healthy person, which constitutes 2,500 calories to function normally. Also a part of the peasants diets was alcohol, as stated in Jerome Blum's "The Peasants", in large amounts of consumption by men, women, and often children (58). According to Document 4 of Wiesner's study, the salary of the typical agricultural worker would remain fairly consistent, but the problem peasants faced was that food prices kept rising, therefore they could not afford to purchase enough, if any, food (106). Primitive techniques of farming kept the diet below standards by producing a negative grain yield. At a ratio of about five to one farmers could not raise enough grain to feed large…

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