The Working Classes in Revolutionary France




  • 1830 / 1832

  • 1848

    Works Cited

  • Food is one of those things that we are likely to take for granted. But food in the nineteenth century was very different from food day. The diet of working class men and women seems lacking both in variety and appeal, in addition to nutritional quality. It's hard to imagine a twelve hour day of hard labor on this type of diet.

    A Typical Day of Meals for the Working Class

    General Dietary Information

    A Budget


    This picture shows working people at meal time. Because of the mixture of men and women, as well as the mixture of age groups, it is most likely a picture of the midday meal.

    Engraving by Flameng, Bibliotheque Nationale Paris

    as taken from Traugott 



    Jeanne Bouvier's Weekly Budget


     Weekly Cost


    Morning:bread 5c, milk 5c

    Midday: bread 15c, cheese 15c, beef and broth 50c, wine 20c

    Evening: bread 10c

     Rent  3.00
     Clothes  3.75
     Total  FR15.15
     Jeanne Bouvier was a French working woman who lived from 1865 to 1964. She published her memoirs, including this budget, in 1914. It comes from a period in which she is a seamstress. (Traugott, 20)

     A Typical Day's Meals



    A typical working class breakfast was eaten at work, after one had been working for about two hours. It usually consisted of plain bread, sometimes with tea of coffee when one could afford it.


    Lunch might be the main meal of the day, but more often it was a smaller second meal. A worker might go home for lunch, or the whole family might eat at a local working class restaraunt. Alternatively, a worker in poorer finacial shape might just bring a few small provisions to eat while working. Lunch, if it was the smaller meal, was usually a piece of bread and some cooked vegetables with wine. A small piece of meat or cheese might be included when it was affordable.


    Dinner was eaten in the late hours of the evening after a worker had arrived home for the day. If it was the major meal of the day it usually consisted of a thin broththat vegetables and perhaps a small piece of meat had been cooked in.The broth was then poured over a piece of stale bread to give the meal bulk and sustinence.


    A workers diet consisted of a few main staples. Obviously, bread formed the core of the diet. Fruits and vegetables were eaten as they were available and in season from the immediate surrounding area. Additionally, workers ate those vegetables, such as potatoes and cabbage, that stored well. Because there was no system of refrigeration as we know it, and no system of worldwide distribution, workers were limited to those foods produced in the region. For a worker in France at that time, eating an orange might be a once in a lifetime occasion. He would probably live his whole life without seeing a banana.