Europe in the late eighteenth
century: economy, culture, technology
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These odds and ends are intended to do no more
than give something of the flavour of the times.
7 years war Britain - France. Conflict between British and French settlers
in N America.
1760: British conquest of India
1763 peace treaty: French left Canada, gave up important W. Indian
possessions to Britain, acknowledged British supremacy in India
1776: American revolution
1777: Portugal's Brazil annexes Maranhão as the Spanish and Portuguese
settle their differences over their South American colonies. The
Portuguese move the capital of Brazil from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro.
Exploration, voyages of discovery, search for
- James Cook, 1728-79 1769-70 explored the coast
of New Zealand (first voyage) Killed in Hawai 1779
La Pirouse 1741-88
- 1769: English inventor Richard Arkwright, 37,
patents a spinning frame that can produce cotton thread hard and firm enough
for the warp of woven fabric. Arkwright's invention will have a profound
effect on Western society.
Watt 1769 produced a steam engine which worked better than anything so far
and used less fuel.(1698 Thomas Savery steam driven pump. 1712 Newcomen
Hargreaves Spinning jenny 1764
Compton: Cotton Spinning machinery
British output of cotton goods rose five fold 1760-1787 (Bernal, J. D. The
Early 18c Pause 1690-1760 Vol 2 Chap 8 509)
Industrial revolution, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow
- 1774: Joseph Priestley
discovers oxygen, a gas he calls "dephlogisticated air." He
heats red oxide of mercury in a glass tube and obtains a gas in which a
candle bums more brightly than in the air. Air "spoilt" by mice
is refreshed by the presence of green plants, says Priestley.
Isaac Newton 1642-1727 Raspe 1737-94
- 1774: A meager harvest
in France increases the hunger that has oppressed the country since the
poor harvest of last year.
1776: A good harvest in France reduces the price of bread, but the French
again abolish intemal free trade in grain
- Food on ships - mouldy
biscuits, maggot ridden salt meat. Rats and cockroaches swarmed all over
the ships. The seamen wore ordinary clothes on board usually without shoes
or stockings. They were often wet. They suffered great discomfort from
fleas and lice. In foggy weather the seamen banged drums, rang bells and
fired their muskets to warn other ships of their presence.
1775: James Cook returns to England from the Pacific, and the Royal
Society awards him its gold Copley Medal for having conquered scurvy. Sir
John Pringle, chief medical officer of the British army and physician to
George Ill hails Captain Cook's achievement in bringing 118 men through
all climates for 3 years and 18 days "with the loss of only one man
by distemper," and while Cook has succeeded with sauerkraut and may
"entertaine no great opinion of [the] antiscorbutic virtue" of
concentrated citrus juices, Pringle suggests that he may be mistaken
Human Rights and Social
- 1772: The Somersett case
marks a turning point in British toleration of slavery. James Somersett,
one of 10,000 black slaves in Britain, has escaped from his master and
been apprehended. Britain's Lord Chief Justice William Murray, 67, Baron
Mansfield, rules after some hesitation on June 22 that "as soon as
any slave sets foot in England he becomes free."
1775: George Ill signs an order releasing from bondage the women and young
children in British coal mines and salt mines. Many of the children are
under 8, work like the women for 10 to 12 hours per day, and have been
transferable with the collieries and salt works when the properties
changed hands or their masters had no further use for them.
1776: Britain's House of Commons hears the first motion to outlaw slavery
in Britain and her colonies. David Hartley, 44, calls slavery
"contrary to the laws of God and the rights of man," but his
- 1773: She Stoops to Conquer
by Oliver Goldsmith at London's Theatre Royal in Covent Garden.
"This is Liberty-Hall, gentlemen. You may do just as you please
"Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no fibs."
1775: English tragic actress Sara Kemble Siddon, 20, has her debut at
London's Drury Lane theatre, beginning a 32-year career that will make her
queen of the stage
The Rivals by Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan at London's Royal
Theatre in Covent Garden. Sheridan's Mrs. Malaprop delights audiences with
"malapropisms" such as "headstrong as an allegory on the
banks of the Nile"
The Barber of Seville, or The Useless Precaution by Pierre A. C. de
Beaumarchais at the Comedie-Franqaise
St. Patrick's Day, or The Scheming Lieutenant by Sheridan at London's
Royal Theatre in Covent Garden,
The Jews (Die Juden) by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing at Frankfurt-am-Main
- Jonathan Swift (d. 1745) -
Gulliver's Travels 1726
Defoe Robinson Crusoe 1719 Moll Flanders 1722
Oliver Goldsmith 1730-74 The Vicar of Wakefield 1766 The Deserted Village
1770 Laments growth of trade, demand for luxuries, mercantile spirit -
bold peasantry, the country's pride, driven to emigration
George Crabbe 1754-1832 1783 The village - grim detailed picture of
rural poverty and a blighted infertile landscape
Henry Fielding 1707-54 Tom Jones 1749
Samuel Johnson 1709-84 Dictionary 1755 1765-edition of Shakespeare
Baron Munchausen tales
- Hogarth 1697-1764
- Rousseau - Social contract
1776 Adam Smith - Wealth of Nations
1776 Tom Paine Common Sense
1769 Edmund Burke 1729-97: Observations on a late Publication on
the Present State of the Nation. Reviews
the economic condition of England and France. Defends repeal of the Stamp
Acts by Rockingham administration for reason that 'politics should be
adjusted, not to human reasonings, but to human nature' and 'people must
be governed in a manner agreeable to their temper and disposition'
1770 Edmund Burke 1729-97: Thoughts on the Cause of the Present
Discontents. Attributes convulsions
in the country to control of parliament by the cabal known as the 'king's
friends' a system of favouritism essentially at variance with the
constitution. Thinks the first requirement is the restoration of the right
of free election. Looks for further safeguards in the interposition of the
body of the people itself to secure decent attention to public interests
and the restoration of party government.
Encyclopedie on Dictionaire Raisoné des Arts et des Metiers 28 vols
1751-1772 35 vols 1751-1780 Looked on unfavourably by authority -
Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790
David Hume 1711-76
John Wilkinson, ironmaster 1728-1808
Wedgwood 1744-1817 potter
Dr. Erasmus Darwin 1731-1802
Matthew Boulton 1728-1809 Birmingham button maker, first manufacturer of
the steam engine
Dr. Hutton 1726-97 Modern geological theory Theory of the Earth 1795
- In Holland the people had
never been so prosperous. The housewives baked meats and puddings with the
new spices. The dress makers and tailors were busy turning the silks and
cottons of the East into rich clothes. With new foods and with beer and
wine to accompany them, the wealthy merchants and landowners lived easy
lives. After meals, the men brought out their clay pipes and smoked the
new weed called tobacco. The making of pipes became a very large
industry.. The Dutch had money to spare for luxuries, especially for works
of art, with which they decorated their houses.
Armytage, W. H. G, A
Social History of Engineering, Faber, 1961.
125 By 1830, one sixth of (British
export trade) was going to America, and from America over three-quarters
of all the raw cotton consumed in the United Kingdom was imported.
Liverpool (was) the funnel of this trade.
Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, Collins, 1984 Vol. II
ISBN 0 00 216 303 9 (quotations
Moscow experienced a murderous
plague in 1770
92 1765: In Germany . . .
peasant and poor die without ever having employed the slightest remedy. No
one ever thinks of the doctor, partly because
he is too far away, partly. . . because
he is too expensive.
1771 Piles of grain the size of houses, enough to feed all Europe, are
again rotting in Podolia, (Russia)
132 . . . in 1782 a working man
or peasant in France ate 2-3 Ibs of bread a day, ‘but people who have
anything else to eat do not consume this quantity’.
Maize seed imported to Congo from America in early 16c - presumably
also to the Gold Coast
Manioc, groundnuts also from America
146 Sweet potatoes too
177 African food producing trees:
kola, banana, palm (oil, wine, vinegar, textile fibres, leaves) peas, red
189 French cooking 1768 ‘The new
cooking is all juice and jelly.’ ‘ Soup, which everyone ate in former
times, is rejected today as too bourgeois and too old-fashioned a dish on
the pretext that stock relaxes the fibres of the stomach.’
1783 The consumption of sugar may increase considerably. It is
scarcely known in half of Europe.
227 Food for the slaves in Brazil was
secured by importing tons of cod from Newfoundland, carne do sol from
the interior (sertado) and soon by charque (dried meat)
shipped from Rio Grande do Sul
235 1788 ‘Taste
the wine of Romanée, Saint-Vinant, Citeaux and Graves, both red and
white... and insist on Tokay if you meet it. In my opinion it is the
greatest wine in the world. . .’ 1762 All wines
of France: Champagne and Burgundy tops. Also Chablis, Pomar, Chambertin,
Beaune, le Clos de Vougeau, Vollenay, la Romanée, Nuits, Mursault.
246 England . . . brandy from the continent,
rum from America, local gin, whisky from Scotland and Ireland. Holland was
exactly at the meeting point of all wine, brandies and all gram based
alcohols in the world, to say nothing of rum from Curaçao and Guiana. By
the end of the 18c the whole of London society from top to bottom was
determinedly getting drunk on gin.
263 Tobacco and port. Candle. Long curved
pipes. Waistcoat, jacket breeches. Buckled shoes, socks to just under
283 In Europe: poor people had few
296 In Europe: carpets thick and brightly
coloured: they covered the ground, tables, (right down to the floor)
chests and even the tops of cupboards. Wall paper common by 1762
297 1779 glass windows in homes of humblest
Parisian workers; oiled paper still in use in Lyon. Glass still a rarity
in Belgrade in 1808.
304 Waxing and varnishing of furniture
started at end of 16c
305 Secretaire launched in 18c. Chest of
drawers from early 18c in France.
306 Furniture: rectilinear or curved;
straight or bulging; bulky or slim; marquetry, precious woods, bronzes,
307 17c Holland. Greater simplicity than
what follows. Immense reception rooms, very high ceilings, more open to
the exterior, deliberately solemn, with a superabundance of ornaments,
sculptures, decorative furniture (buffets, heavily carved sideboards)
decorative silverware. Plates, dishes, pictures hung on the walls. Walls
painted with complex motifs. Tapestries moved towards a certain
grandiloquence and costly, subtle complication. Grand reception chamber
was still an all purpose room: guests gather for a lavish banquet; bed
stands heavily curtained, near the fireplace. No heating. No privacy.
308 18c. Privacy an innovation. Everything
more expensive. Luxury unrestrained. Reception rooms for polite society;
public rooms for display and ostentation, private or family apartments.
Pantry distant from kitchen, dining room from drawing room, bedrooms a
realm apart. Finely wrought delicate furniture, less clumsy, more
specialized. Gaming, card, night, centre tables, bureaux, dumb waiters.
Chest of drawers. Range of soft armchairs. Ornamentation; sculpted and
painted panelling, sumptuous silver decorations, bronzed lacquer, exotic
and precious woods, mirrors, mouldings and chandeliers, pier glasses, silk
hangings, Chinese vases, German crockery.
310 Heating still poor, ventilation
derisory, cooking done in a rustic manner, sometimes on a portable
charcoal stove. English style water closets not always included. Chamber
pots still emptied out of window: the streets were sewers. Bathrooms a
rare luxury in an 18c house. Fleas, lice, bugs. Candles and oil lamps.
(Gas lighting only from 1808) Wax, tallow, whale oil.
329 The custom for men to wear underdrawers
which are changed every day and which maintain cleanliness instead of
single fined breeches was hardly established until the 2nd half of the
330 There was not a single bathing
establishment in London in 1800. Scarcity of soap was a problem. The hard
soaps with soda from Mediterranean were used for personal washing and
included cakes of toilet soap which had to be marbled and scented.
332 England 1800. 10 million inhabitants.
150,000 wearers of wigs.
339 Black slaves, even later than 1788,
replacing horses in the towns of Brazil, pulling heavily laden carts.
Lunsingh Scheurleer, Th. H,
The Eighteenth Century: The Low Countries, in Helena Hayward, (ed)
World Furniture Illustrated History, Hamlyn, 1965 (notes)
elm, cabriole legs terminating in hoof feet (like deer's hooves).
Relies on suavely flowing lines rather than ornament.
Early 18c. Upholstered seat fixed by brass buttons
all round. Upholstery on wooden arms. Jigsawed back (pierced
splat) looking rather like a traditional Ashanti sword. Front seat
rail with sharp convex and concave curves.l
Bureau bookcase with a lower stage composed of a slant-front desk on a
chest of drawers and the upper enclosed by two doors with looking-glass
panels (of English origin) Garniture of vases (Chinese porcelain)
displayed on a cornice specially designed for the purpose. Three
drawers below with pair of brass hinged handles and control key hole with
fancy brass escutcheon.
Corner cabinet veneered with brown walnut. Claw feet. Cornices
reminiscent of roof of Amsterdam house, surmounted by curved crest of
leaves and feathers. Elaborate mouldings on door surface.
Commode veneered with burr walnut and ornamented with marquetry panels.
Complex curving profile. Deep apron piece below with a turned
pendent finial. Scrolled "Spanish" foot.
Another commode. Hinged top opens to reveal a cistern hand basin.
Top hinges back and when open reveals shelves. Flaps open to
left and right revealing a basin. Could be used as a sewing table
allowing glassware to be washed in the drawing room
veneered in walnut, c 1750. Porcelain tea cups were rare and highly
valued at this period and the tray top protected them against mishap.
Rail all round top with elaborate fret work at corners.
An important type of cupboard in a Netherlands household contains a linen
press in the upper stage, disguised as a respectable writing cabinet or
Briggs, Asa, A Social History of England, Penguin,
English People in the 18th Century
Marshall, Dorothy, The English Poor in the 18c
Porter, Roy, English Society in the Eighteenth
Century, Penguin, 1982
Trevelyan, G. M., English Social History Penguin
Wolf A, A History of Science, Technology
and Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century, London 1952 (compass, clocks, industry)