European Society in Upheaval: Social History since 1750

European Society in Upheaval: Social History since 1750

European Society in Upheaval: Social History since 1750

European Society in Upheaval: Social History since 1750

Excerpt

The basic fact of European history since 1750 has been an unprecedented social upheaval. Every age is a time of change, and Europe had not been static in the previous centuries. But in the last two hundred years a new kind of society has been formed, as different from its predecessor as agricultural society was from the hunting culture with which man first began to fight for survival. Beginning in the eighteenth century, demographic, economic, and political forces arose that were truly revolutionary in their intensity. The population of the Continent began to expand rapidly and, in addition, grew exceptionally mobile. Europe became urbanized; for the first time in human history the majority of people lived in cities, and the countryside was partially urbanized as well, as a city economy and culture spread outward. The economy of Europe was transformed Production expanded greatly, and new methods of marketing and transport arose. Finally, governments gradually adopted new methods and policies, often spurred by pressures from below as new groups gained political consciousness. The result was an increasingly active government that sought change in many areas--in agricultural methods, in the organization of cities, in industry and technology, and in more conventional matters such as police and military structure. Population growth, the industrialization of the economy, and the modernization of the state--here were the most obvious motors for change.

The result was a transformation that touched every aspect of life; and in many ways the less familiar changes were more important. People . . .

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