Literacy and Written Culture in Early Modern Central Europe

Literacy and Written Culture in Early Modern Central Europe

Literacy and Written Culture in Early Modern Central Europe

Literacy and Written Culture in Early Modern Central Europe

Synopsis

"The goal of this book is to examine the gradual spread of literacy and written culture among the peasants, market town burghers, the landed gentry and the landless and impoverished nobles in Central Europe from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. In addition, the book explores the role written documents played in the lives of the members of these social strata, who represented the great majority of the population in early modern times. Literacy and Written Culture in Early Modern Central Europe is a lively and stimulating guide providing fascinating insights into village life, legal and administrative issues, and the role of the clergy. Its overall content contributes to major debates in the fields of language, literacy, linguistics and social history." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The European Early Modern Age, from the early sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth century, saw a veritable revolution in cultural history. In the Middle Ages, it was deemed natural that only a select few knew how to read and write and that many of these individuals made their living from these skills as scribes and clerks. Not only peasants but often the nobility viewed written text as incomprehensible. By the late eighteenth century, however, about fifty percent of the male population in the most developed regions of Europe was able to gather information by reading newspapers, and the number of those capable of conducting correspondence in writing increased steadily. Reading and writing skills and the use of literacy in general gained ground rapidly to the detriment of oral communication. The body of written documents available drastically expanded, and literacy increasingly made its presence felt. The number of printed books grew while their price became cheaper, and more events and ideas were thought to be worth committing to paper. In addition, literacy extended its influence to new sectors of the developing state administration and bureaucracy: surveys and certificates were drafted, and the use of written documents gradually replaced oral testimony. Although difficult to demonstrate—let alone measure—styles of thinking and general mentalities simultaneously changed. Orally transmitted information and the memory of the elderly lost a great deal of their former prestige while respect for details put down in writing, which were comprehensible to increasing numbers of people (even among . . .

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