Skip to main content

Daily Life in Early Modern Society

| Discussion topics | Documents | Reading |

Discussion topics and Essay questions

a) Rural society
· Were the changes in agrarian society in this period to the advantage of landowners or of peasants?
· Were social relations in the countryside characterised by conflict or co-operation?
· In which ways did peasants 'matter' in early modern Europe?

b) Urban society
· How were early modern towns governed?
· Why did some towns flourish in this period while others stagnated?
· In which ways was 'urban life' fundamentally different from 'rural life' in this period?

c) Material Culture
· To what extent was early modern Europe a 'consumer society'?
· How did the material culture of social groups differ?

d) Food & Diet in Early Modern Europe
- What were the main changes in the diet of Europeans between 1500 and 1800?
- What were the broader changes in European life—including economic, demographic, and cultural developments—that drove changes in the European diet in this period?
- What effect did science and medicine have on the types of food that Europeans ate and the way they prepared them?


**NOTE: Some eresources are accessible only on-campus or via off-campus proxies or the athens service**





Rural Society

·The 'Twelve Articles' of the German Peasants (1525)
·Social Conditions in 17th Century France (c.1650)
·Abraham Cowley, Of Agriculture (1650)

Urban Society

·The Great Fire of London: article in the 'London Gazette' (3-10 September 1666)
·John Stow, Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster (1603)

Food & Diet

·The French Cook, written in French by Monsieur De La Varenne, and now Englished by J. D. G. (London, 1653)
·La Varenne, Le cuisinier français (Paris, 1651) – in French
·John Murrell, A New Booke of Cookerie (London, 1617)

Material Culture

·Dame Mary Lister's household book
·Extracts from a letter to Elizabeth I describing pageants performed at Kenilworth castle
·Renaissance Festival Books
·Inventory of Humphrey Hutchings (1713)

'Migration and the Early Modern English Town' (TLTP courseware tutorial)

Rural Society

·Albrecht Dürer, 'Three Peasants' (c. 1497)
·A 'typical' German village (c.1500)
·David Kellners, Berg und Saltz wercks Buch (1702)
·Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Peasant Wedding (c.1568)
·Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Peasant Dance (1568)
· Map of the scale of the Peasants' War (1525)

Urban Society

·Pieter Aertsen, Market Scene I
·Pieter Aertsen, Market Scene II (c.1550)
·Albrecht Dürer, The Wire-drawing Mill (c. 1489)
·Albrecht Dürer, Willow Mill (c.1496-98)
·Map of Basle and other imperial cities 
·'Historic Cities': digital maps (e.g. Amsterdam) and documents

Food & Diet

·Papus Peruanorum [potato], from Basilius Bessler, Hortus Eystettensis (1620)

·Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters, 1565

·Jan Davidszoon de Heem, Still Life with Fruit and Ham, 1648-49

·Advertisement for Sir Hans Sloane's milk chocolate, early 18th-century

Material Culture

·Men and women's work clothing
·Minature religious triptych (1726-50)
·Artificial hand (16th century)
·Portrait bust of Philibert of Savoy (1501)
·16th century Welsh mug
·Verge watch (1718-1750)

Secondary literature:

a) Rural Society

b) Urban Society

c) Material Culture

d) Food & Diet

  • Albala, Ken. Eating Right in the Renaissance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002)
  • " , Food in Early Modern Europe (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 2003)
  • " , The Banquet: Dining in the Great Courts of Late Renaissance Europe (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007)
  • Brears, Peter C. D., Stuart Cookery: Recipes and History (London: English Heritage, 2004)
  • " , Tudor Cookery: Recipes and History (London: English Heritage, 2003)
  • Kümin, Beat A. (ed.), A Cultural History of Food in the Early Modern Age (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2014)
  • Laudan, Rachel, Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013)
  • Montanari, Massimo, The Culture of Food (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994)
  • Muldrew, Craig, Food, Energy and the Creation of Industriousness: Work and Material Culture in Agrarian England, 1550-1780 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)
  • Spang, Rebecca L., The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000)
  • Spary, Emma, Eating the Enlightenment: Food and the Sciences in Paris (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012)
  • Strong, Roy, Feast: A History of Grand Eating (London: Pimlico, 2003)
  • Thirsk, Joan, Food in Early Modern England: Phases, Fads, Fashions 1500-1760 (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007)