Society and Economy under the Old Regime in the Eighteenth Century

Society and Economy under the Old Regime in the Eighteenth Century

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Stefan Seltz-Axmacher 5/13/2009 Per. 1 Chapter 16: Society and Economy under the Old Regime in the Eighteenth Century I. Major Features of Life in the Old Regime: Pre-Revolutionary Europe was based on aristocratic elites possessing a wide variety of inherited legal privileges, established churches intimately related to the state and the aristocracy, an urban labor force usually organized into guilds, and a rural peasantry subject to high taxes and feudal dues. a. Maintenance of Tradition: Most people wanted things to go back to the way they were—the nobility wanted their powers restored and the peasants wanted traditional manorial rights. The 18 th century economy was predominantly traditional and the quality and quantity of the grain harvest was the most important face of life for people and governments. b. Hierarchy and Privilege: The social hierarchy became a lot stricter during this period. People enjoyed rights and privileges in accordance with their class. II. The Aristocracy: While the nobility was only 1-5% of a countries population it held more wealth than anyone else. They had the majority of representation in the governments. a. Varieties of Aristocratic Privilege: Differed from country to country. i. British Nobility: Smallest, wealthiest, best defined and most socially responsible of all of Europe’s nobles. About 400 families —the oldest male in each sat in the House of Lords. These families also controlled most of the seats in the House of Commons. All together they controlled 25% of arable land. Since only eldest male got the title the others went into commerce, the arm, the professions, and the church. They only had a couple privileges. ii. French Nobility: Less clear cut. The 400,000 nobles were divided between Nobles of the Sword —who had derived nobility from military service, or Nobles of the Cloth —who had acquired titles by serving in the bureaucracy or by purchasing them. Nobility was further divided between those who held office at Versailles and those who didn’t. The ones in Versailles got all the appointments to the church, army, bureaucracy and other profitable positions. They became very rich while the provincial nobles were little above peasants and known as Hobereaux Nobles didn’t have to pay the taille but were supposed to pay vingtieme , an income tax, but rarely did. iii. Eastern European Nobilities: 1. Poland: Thousands of nobles known as szlachta . No taxes after 1741 and until 1768 they had most of the power of light vs death for their serfs. Most were poor but the rich ones had a lot of power of polish state. 2. Austria and Hungary: Nobility possessed broad judicial powers of the peasantry through manorial courts. Enjoyed
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exemption from most taxation. The wealthiest owned ten million acres of land. 3.
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Society and Economy under the Old Regime in the Eighteenth Century

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