People in the elite culture could participate down with the popular culture but the popular culture could not move up without exceptional transformation by education and marriage. The language of the educated became standardized in a nation; dictionaries were begun and the literacy rate rose. On the other hand, the popular culture was mainly oral and was much more resistant to change. Wealth produced major differences: The poor largely ate bread, cabbages and beans; they lived in crude shelters with limited furnishings; they ate from wooden bowls. Popular books became common--almanacs with astrology, weather, proverbial advice, or “how to” books on behavior. Religion normally brought the classes together; in large towns, some churches would be “fashionable.” Many of the poor did not often go to church. The elite culture, becoming skeptic, was also less religious. Diseases were shared, though famine and plague were more likely to strike the poor, crowded in their slums. In 1600, superstitions and belief in magic and witches were common to all; by 1700,they were mainly among the poor. By 1700, the elite was a spectator at most. The gulf between classes widened as the elite took to more formal manners and to neoclassicism in literature and the arts.
Merchant capitalism, domestic industry, and mercantilism grew rapidly. While most nations were still rural/agricultural (in 1789 only 50 cities had over 50,000 people), many rural people were employed in the domestic system of industry. Though domestic trade provided the largest volume, foreign trade had become vital, with the largest enterprises, the greatest commercial fortunes, the most capital. And from it the wars of the century grew. Many East India companies formed, including Prussian, Swedish, Venetian--but only the French, Dutch, British survived: they had the capital and the diplomatic, military, naval support. The winners made immense profits, with Britain dominant in Asia and America, France leader in Europe and the Middle East. Asian trade was a gold drain, since Asians rejected European manufactured goods while Europeans wanted silks, porcelains, spices, tea and cottons. Britain paid with gold from Ghana, the “Gold Coast,” minting the coin still called the guinea. Europe gradually began to compete, manufacturing carpets and “bone china”. But cottons were in such demand that England passed strong protectionist laws--leading to smuggling. In America, the trade base was sugar, brought from Asia around 1650, and the plantation system: tract of land, capital investment, slave labor. The West Indies sugar trade was greater than the value of all Asia trade to Britain. Slaves first reached Virginia by 1619, with rapid growth after 1650. Huge slave trade to Jamaica--over 600,000 brought in, 1700-1786. Britain and New England dominated slave trade, and it produced the vast capital that was to produce the Industrial Revolution and anchor the base of the new capitalism. Trade with Eastern Europe, especially Russia and Poland, expanded greatly; East European landlords increased productivity of their lands in order to purchase luxury products; thus serfdom became entrenched. Natural resources from America, resources and skills of Asia, the gold and manpower of Africa alike produced an increased volume of goods. Europe supplied the capital, the technical and organizing abilities, and the demand. A few non-Europeans shared in the profits, but the most went to Europe, to the few. If the wealthy owners supported the government by taxes and loans, it was strong (Britain); if they did not, if failed (France). The European standard of living grew for all, though capital was controlled by the very few. People in the middle were better off, but the poorest were worse off--serfs of Eastern Europe, Irish peasants, dispossessed farm workers in England. Western Europe after Utrecht, 1713-1740: Spain’s empire was partitioned; it kept America but lost European holdings to Austrians, Duke...
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