• GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • FRANKISH KINGDOM
  • JOHANNES REUCHLIN
  • THE WEIMAR CONSTITUTION
  • W
  • INFLATION, REPARATIONS, AND
  • THE STRESEMANN ERA, 19231929
  • STABILIZATION AND LOCARNO,
  • CULTURE AND SOCIETY
  • ROAD TO DICTATORSHIP,
  • T
  • CONSOLIDATION OF POWER
  • THE NAZI TOTAL STATE
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  • W
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  • PHILIP MELANCHTHON
  • D-DAY TO DEFEAT NAZI GERMANY
  • THE HOLOCAUST
  • A
  • ALLIED PLANS AND CONFERENCES
  • DENAZIFICATION
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  • T
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  • CULTURE AND SOCIETY
  • SOCIAL STRUCTURE
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  • PRINTING AND MEDICINE
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  • T
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  • R
  • CONSEQUENCES AND PROBLEMS OF
  • ECONOMIC UNIFICATION,
  • P
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  • FOREIGN POLICY
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  • A
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  • blank check
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  • FREDERICK THE GREAT
  • SEVEN YEARS WAR
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  • T
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  • LATE MEDIEVAL CULTURE
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  • AN UNPLANNED REVOLUTION
  • N
  • POLITICAL PARTIES UNPREPARED
  • A REVOLUTIONARY PATTERN
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  • A REPUBLIC PROCLAIMED
  • A SEVERE ARMISTICE
  • T
  • ESTABLISHMENT OF A REVOLUTIONARY
  • EBERT MAKES A DEAL WITH THE
  • THE SPARTACISTS
  • INTERPRETATION OF THE
  • A VENGEFUL PEACE
  • V
  • THE GOALS OF THE PEACEMAKERS
  • TERMS OF THE TREATY
  • WAR GUILT AND REPARATIONS
  • DENUNCIATION AND RELUCTANT
  • GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • S

    style='font-size:31.5pt;font-family:ATClassicRoman;color:black'>OCIETY AND CULTURE IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

     

    SERFDOM, POPULATION EXPANSION, AND DISEASE

    In the 18th century Germany continued to be a predominantly agricultural

    society. Of the approximately 20 million people living in the Holy Roman

    Empire, more than a majority (80 percent) were still peasants living at a subsistence

    level. By the end of the century when the population had reached 24

    million, 1 percent of the population, comprising 50,000 families, belonged to

    the nobility. The agricultural workers in the western portions of the Empire

    were freer and economically more independent and better off than their counterparts

    in the Prussian lands to the east. There peasants were under the

    bondage of serfdom in an almost slavelike condition. As far back as the Thirty

    Years War agricultural estates in the east had grown larger through enclosures,

    which had led to an increase in peasant oppression. Frederick II had some success

    in reforming landholding in his estates through the reduction of the days

    of obligatory service to the lord and the establishment of some 50,000 privately

    owned farms. Generally, the Prussian aristocracy opposed any reforms, failed

    to modernize their estates, and were deeply in debt. Not until the defeat of

    Prussia at the hands of Napoleon did the aristocracy wake up to the necessity

    of reform. In the other German states to the west such as Baden and Bavaria

    the old feudal obligations were reduced but not eliminated and few peasants

    were able to purchase their lands.

    Population expansion in the 18th century contributed to pressures on the

    land and to increasing poverty. Around the middle of the century the Habsburg

    subjects totaled about 6 million, which increased to more than 9 million at the

    turn of the century. Migration and immigration contributed to this growth as

    Germans from the south and west colonized Hungarian lands, which had been

    depopulated. Prussia, which in 1740 had an estimated population of 3.5 million,

    also tried to stimulate population growth through the immigration of

    almost 300,000 colonists. Other population movements occurred, and the most

    important one was the 100,000 or so settlers who immigrated to the United

    States. Like other German rulers, Frederick III of Hesse-Kassel, engaging in the

    trade of mercenary soldiers, sold more than half of his 29,000 German soldiers

    to Great Britain to suppress the American revolutionaries. Life expectancy in

    Germany was less than the 29 years of Frenchmen. If one wonders why the

    population was so small throughout much of the century, one need only look

    at the impact of epidemic diseases. Even though plague waned at the beginning

    55

    of the century, it nonetheless killed off about one-third of the population of

    Prussia. Smallpox was the second-greatest check on population growth as one

    in 10 average deaths was attributable to it. Inadequate nutrition was also a contributing

    factor, and primitive medical practices ensured a low survival rate

    from other illnesses like pneumonia. Not until after 1800 did the potato

    improve the diets of the poor and bring an end to famines.

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