18th Century: Expansion of Europe

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Chapter 19: The Expansion of Europe in the 18th Century

Agriculture and the land

1) Complete this statement about the common people, “life remained a struggle with poverty and uncertainty with the landlord and the tax collector.

2) What was the basic problem of ordinary men and women in 1700 in Europe?

• Living standards were poor: The common man were poor and worked long and hard hours in poverty. There was a lack of warm clothing, housing, and good food. Yields for all of the farming were alarmingly low. At times, harvests failed completely. When there was a famine, people turned to whatever source of nutrients there was.

• The previous wars hurt the peasantry. For example, the religious wars in Germany destroyed the soil of the land.

3) How does a gradual change begin to take place in Europe as the 18th c unfolds?

• Europe began to expand: Population started expanding and the colonies of European powers grew.

• The seeds of the Industrial Revolution were planted in the 18th century.

4) Describe the economy of Europe at the end of the 1700s. Use some numbers given in your textbook to illustrate the precarious position of the common people.

• The economy was largely agrarian with people “living off the land.”

• The poor lived in poverty and turned to famine foods during times of crisis. In such times of crisis many died. A county in Finland lost 28 percent of its population due to a famine from 1696-1697.

The Open-field System

5) Explain the medieval “open field” system:

• The land was divided into large, unfenced plots in an open-field system. Peasants would farm each field as a group.

• A common land was set aside for the village’s animals to graze in. After the harvest, these animals would eat the stubble of the fields. Some of the very poor women would also participate in this post-harvest gathering.

6) What problems did the farmers using an open-field system face and what solutions did they come up with?

• In order to avoid exhausting the soil, peasants rotated what they would farm based on a schedule. If this wasn’t done, famine was inevitable.

o fallow was done every one to two years to prevent soil exhaustion.

7) What is “gleaning” and how did it benefit some people in the open-field system of agriculture? Make sure you look at the famous painting depicting “The Gleaners”.

• Gleaners were poor women that took the missed grain that harvesters and animals missed. This practice established by a long tradition benefited the unsupported women of the community.

8) “The privileges of Europe’s ruling elites weighed heavily on the people of the land.” Give concrete examples of this from your reading.

• In Eastern Europe, serfs were bound to the land and sometimes sold as property. Serfs worked most days with no pay and much of their yields were taken.

• In Western Europe, peasants could own land and pass it to their descendants, but life was still hard. In France, it was estimated that 1/10 of peasants could live satisfactorily off of their yields.

Agriculture Revolution

9) Read this section and outline some possible steps that the commoners could and did take to improve their difficult position.

• A very gradual agricultural revolution was taking place that allowed for farmers to relieve themselves of planting fallow. To do this, grains and nitrogen storing crops peas and potatoes were rotated. Crop rotation became sophisticated as patterns were introduced to suit certain kinds of soils.

• Through the use of crop rotation, there was more food to grow a herd of animals, meaning more manure and in effect more food.

• When enclosure was beginning to be introduced, many peasants in western Europe resisted losing their ancient rights to an open field and succeeded in...
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