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Lecture 1



18th C. Europe and especially Britain is frequently identified as the epoch and the place for the great transition to modernity

-this course is largely about the rise of a commercial society in England, and

what this meant for the cultural history of ordinary people as well as the elites.

1. China

18thC. British society in a long historical and global context.

-the key words we associate with the 18th. - world trade, cities, the middling classes, consumer culture, fashion and style

-these were also key features of China's Song dynasty (960-1368)

China was a highly urbanised society - by the early 18thC. when London exceeded 500,000 China's porcelain city - Jingdezchen had a million - even here it was exceeded by

Japan's Edo (Tokyo) which reached this size in the 17thC

The Asian Mediterranean and Europe’s trade with China

The Macartney Expedition of 1792-3

2.Turning points and new histories

short period bet. 1780 and 1820 was seen as setting great breaks with the past -

*the agricultural and industrial revolutions,

*the time of a rapid and sustained upward turning in population,

*a time of new British imperial domination of the sea routes and colonies,

*a time of enlightenment and the rise of a newly self-confident middle class,

*a time of the emergence of artisan of artisan and political radicalism.

Recently historians have not been so sure

The global century

British exceptionalism

3.Fundamental transitions

1. The landscape

The British continuously reduced their share of labour occupied in agriculture

2. Urban society

What really made Britian different from the rest of Europe during this time - was not just her metropolis, but the rapid growth of her smaller towns and cities - 24% of the population lived in towns of over 10,000 by 1800. - about 40% counted themselves as urban dwellers

3. Growth of Population

Western European marriage system


Amerindian populations

African slave trade

4. Population - What happened?

England in 1550 contained 3 million people - only 4.9% of the population of Western Europe.

France at the time had 17 million people

By 1840 this share had risen to 10.5% or 18.5 million

The Sources of population growth

Explanations for this growth are divided into declining mortality and increasing fertility

-but fertility counted for 2/3 - 64% of this difference

5. Why did birth rates rise?

1.fertility rates of married women rose; .

2.women married earlier in life;

3.the prop. of women who remained single fell

4.the fertility rates of unmarried women rose

-all four factors changed in the long 18thC.

the big population study led by Wrigley and Schofield in the 1970s and 1980s discovered that over the course of the 18th C. there more marriages and earlier marriages

-the age that women married dropped from 26 to 23.5 - the effect of this was to produce a rise of 20% in marital fertility

marriage increasingly becoming the preserve of the young.

-marriages in which the groom was 20-4 and the bride was in the same age group or in her teens - 41% of all marriages in period 1775-1837 - in 1600-1724 were only 22%

What is notable is the growth in the fertility rates for young women aged between 15 and 19, and the numbers of women pregnant on marriage - early 19thC. one quarter of all first births were prenuptially conceived - a further quarter were illegimate. - in the late 17thC. the proportions were 7% in both cases.


-impact of fall in mortality less than rise in fertility

An overall improve. in expectation of life at birth which as absent at the start of the period.

6. Economic explanations

the connections between population growth and price or wage changes was broken in the later 18thC.

-incentives to rising fertility were provided by changing models of marriage and the family, by changes in the labour market which increased the demand for female labour, and by changes in the poor law



7. Cultural Factors

the key shifts we see are the changing sexual behavior of young men and women - and especially women - the behaviour of those in the age group between 15 and 19 changes most rapidly of all - they marry earlier - they are pregnant when they marry, and they have more illegitimate offspring.

courtship and betrothal rituals in plebeian communities

Consumption, work and lifestyle

Industrious revolution