Statistics: Patterns of Family and Community Life
in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century France
Index | Encounters
| Index of Student Papers | Syllabus
The Changing World of Rural France
Jennifer Adams, December 1996
great amount of information can be told about a town from those who
dwelled in it. How they made their living reflects how wealthy they
were, what kinds of social changes were going on, and how the town was
progressing. This was especially true of Tart l'Abbaye, Tart-le-Bas,
and Tart-le-Haut. These villages represent changes within rural France
in the mid-1800s. Although agriculture was a dominant occupation, one
can see the emergence of new kinds of professions. Through work with
censuses of the period, one sees that as the population increased so
did the number of craftsmen and merchants. The percentages of people
in agriculture decreased due to these changes.
One can never generalize too much about the entire country of France
because the regions are different from one another, and it is possible
that while one village was increasing in size, another was decreasing.
This creates a problem in exploring particular villages with sources
that make generalizations about the country of France and are not sensitive
to the regional differences. For example: in Moulin's book she states,
"But migration greatly accelerated so that by the mid nineteenth
century contemporaries began to express alarm at the depopulation of
the countryside and the deleterious effects this might have on the nation"
(Moulin 66). This passage is in direct conflict with other passages
such as one found in the town of Chassignolles in Celestine, "The
population increased in the first three decades of the nineteenth century
by almost half as many again to close on a thousand" (Tindall 125).
The population continued to increase through out the years. The population
had also increased in the t1iree villages of Tart I'Abbaye, Tart-le-Bas,
and Tart-le Haut. With such contrasting ideas, the difficulties of research
are evident and one must be sensitive to certain information. Even with
the differences, there are some generalizations that hold true. In nearly
every source listed in the bibliography of this paper, farming was a
dominant occupation. It was a way of life for the peasants.
Tart l' Abbaye, Tart-le-Bas, and Tart-le-Haut are villages that like
Chassignolles had population increases.
Total Population of TLA, TLB, and TLH
||Number of People
How does this increase come about? It can be "mainly accounted
for by more children surviving to grow up and by people in general living
longer" (Tindall 125). It is true that the infant mortality rate
was in decline and more children were surviving infancy and growing
up in their villagers to later join the workers of the Tarts. Celestine
points out one possibility of the reason behind the increased population,
"Widespread plague and starvation were slipping into history"
(70). According to one source, people were, in essence, eating more,
"Higher calorific intake was the main reason why rural death rates
continued to decline and remained well below those of towns" (McPhee
227). These are a few possibilities for the population increase including
increased attention placed on one's diet and the possible increased
amount of doctors or medicines in the rural communities. Of course,
the train lines did come out around the 1850s (Tindall 43). This may
have had incredible effect upon the rural population as well as the
population involved in agriculture.
Population makes a difference when one is discussing the changing occupations
of France. Before the increase of people within the three 'Tart' villages,
64% of the occupations were within the agricultural group. Whereas people
come and go, one thing does not change. The amount of land will basically
stay the same (Schwartz). Not everyone can be a farmer, so newcomers
to a town have to find an occupation that is needed by the town. Some
may say that the 'Tart' villages' population increase was not significant
enough to warrant this reason. However, one sees a different picture
when looking at the following statistics:
Population of the workers of TLA, TLB, and TLH
The total population had increased by six percent whereas the working
population shows almost twice that with an eleven percent increase.
The villages were growing more so with workers rather than infants.
In conclusion, the increased number of workers needed to find an occupation
outside of agriculture because without additional land, there was no
need for additional workers.
To understand the actual changes that are going on, one must break down
the categories of the different occupations. The following chart has
broken down the specifics of the agricultural, artisan, and commercial
Occupations for TLA, TLB,
|| 3 (1%)
|Inn /Bar Keeper
|| 2 (0.5%)
There are a few clarifications that need to be made in the census.
In the 1836 and 1851 censuses, wage workers were not identified as being
any one particular occupational group. In the 1866 census, however,
it was classified with a new title, agricultural wage worker. Therefore,
it needs to be qualified that these two groups are considered equal
because in the 1800s, a great majority of the wage workers were working
in agricultural positions (Schwartz). In this analysis, the wage workers
of 1836 and 1851 were placed in the agricultural group. One other consideration
is the married women of the 1800s. Once a woman became married, her
occupation was no longer placed in the census. In reality, she may have
continued being a seamstress or whatever occupation she had held before
Another question arose from the census: what specific occupations made
up the broad agricultural group? Most importantly was the proprietor;
this was the land owner of the group. Then came the cultivator; this
person was a peasant who owned some land and may also have rented some.
Third, the fermier was a tenant farmer. The manoeuvrier was a landless
or land-poor farmer that had to also work for wages. Last, the wage
workers were day laborers that worked on the richer farms.
There was a lot of give and take between the artisan and agricultural
groups. The artisans needed agriculture because the farmers were the
buyers of their skills. The farmers needed artisans for furniture, shoes
for the horses, tools for the farm, among other things. This was all
provided by the artisan occupation group. They both needed one another.
This can be explained through the connection that the artisans had on
farm in the 1800s. In My Father's Life, Pierre explains this connection
to his son:
Agriculture is the noblest art practiced by man. All others depend
on it, and the riches which it provides are alone worthy' of the name.
Let us remain at the fountainhead of life, the purest of all springs.
It is honorable to engage in an activity upon which all others depend.
What is the merchant, if not our middleman? The artist and the artisan
would not exist without us. Let us recognize our importance, my son,
and be proud of it" (Bretonne 49).
Many areas in the artisan group were opening up due to the changing
needs of the farmers. The metals trade had a large increase in the 'Tart'
villages between 1851 (6 workers) and 1866 (19 workers). "Metal-working
was an expanding trade; developments in agriculture were requiring more
elaborate tools" (Tindall 145). For example: in the past, farmers
had to use sickles and scythes to harvest their crops, but in the 1860s,
it was faster to use horse-drawn reaping machines built by the metals
subgroup in the artisan group (Tindall 145). In the past, artisans could
not live on their trade alone; they also had to work as wage workers
on farms. This had changed with the industrialization and the modernization
of fanning. Now there were things needed on the farm that the artisans
could provide. The artisans were no longer part-time wage workers on
the farm (Moulin 63).
Textiles became a more popular trade in the mid-1800s in rural France.
The 'Tart' villages experienced an increase between the years of 1851
and 1866. There were five people involved in the clothing trade in 1851
and this figure more than doubled to eleven people in 1866. In general,
before 1850, peasants wore crude clothing that was weaved at home. It
was heavy and uncomfortable made from flax, linen, or wool. (Moulin
72). Along came industrial cotton and fabrics in the 1830s. "By
1850, they had conquered all areas, primarily because they were cheap,
colorful and pleasant to wear ... Henceforth, peasants were, for the
first time, able to separate working clothes from holiday clothes"
(Moulin 72). Having these new materials to work with,- the seamstresses
and tailors of the 'Tart' villages may have gained more customers. Therefore,
because of the industrialization in the factories of France, the rural
clothing occupations increased.
There was a large increase of people involved with the building trades
in the 'Tart' villages. The numbers of workers for each went from fourteen
in 1836 to thirty-two in 1866. There is one strong possibility for this
increase, the population increase. All the newcomers in town need homes,
furniture, and cabinets. This can all be provided by the building trade.
The newcomers would also need things like harnesses, clothes,- nails,
horse shoes, and shoes for themselves. In general, the population increase
would have affected the entire artisan group.
Industry was changing the lives of many people in both the country and
the town, "Change in the countryside was stealthily on its way.
A generation later the industrial and commercial development that was
transforming urban France was introducing new skills, trades and amenities
not Just in country market towns but in villages as well" (Tindall
l51). This shift towards artisan and industry was indeed one of the
leading causes for the decrease in population in the agricultural community,
but it could be argued that this wave had in fact helped farmers. Artisans
produced tools and techniques to the farm. The decrease in numbers of
farmers may have lowered the competition level and overproduction of
the land. Too much production could lead to low incomes for the farmers.
This was not good for small villages where all the occupations lean
on one another.
One of the reasons why the agricultural community may have decreased
was the straying of the youth. Often times a farm was passed down from
generation to generation. The younger generations would take on the
responsibilities that their parents had. This was how it was in the
case of Pierre and his son, Edme in My Father's Life. "I confer
my authority upon you as my right-hand man during my lifetime and as
my successor after my death ... Oh Lord, I have done wrong, but here
is my son. May what he does in my place be acceptable to you" (Bretonne
47). Here was Pierre handing the reins over to his son and telling him
what he must do. This was quite common in the days that Edme was a young
man, in the mid-1700s. Times do change. The following passage was written
in 1851. Times do change.
"There are complaints on all sides that the young are leaving
the land and that the rural workforce is being depleted. It is shocking
the contempt that the sons of country laboring men have for their
father's occupation . . Everything they read and hear draws them towards
the big cities" (Tindall 113).
If this is so, then the agricultural workforce would in fact decrease
some what. The sons would no longer be taking over their fathers' farms
following the father'sdeath. Another possibility for why the sons may
have been leaving the farms was to join the military. France had a draft
for young men to be placed in the military. "It was resented that
the government, who arbitrarily removed a much-needed worker from the
family farm or business, paid no compensation. The standard length of
service was five years, seven between 1855 and 1868" (Tindall 137).
The seven year service was the years between the last two censuses of
1851 and 1866. Therefore, the military may have had an effect on the
decrease of the percentage of workers in agriculture.
Education may have played a part in the decreasing agriculture and increasing
the artisan and commercial trades. In the past, young people spent most
of their time in the fields and pastures alongside their fathers doing
farm work. Once again, the mid nineteenth century brought change. Here
is an exhibition of the effects of change in education durin' 1866 and
1872 in one village, Tart-le-Bas, researched by Heidi Haberman:
Literacy in Tart-le-Bas
||Can't Read or Write
||Read and Write
One can see the difference in only six years. In all of France, there
were 3.3 million pupils in 1850 and 4.7 million pupils in 1877 (McPhee
23 1). Many of the villagers were greatly worried about this progression
of education. As the number of children who went to school increased,
more villagers became worried about neglected farms and flocks (Tindall
113). This gore feeling felt by the townspeople towards education was
found in a passage written in 187 1. There is also the possibility that
in school, children learned about what was going on outside their community
and wanted to go out and find it. Perhaps they learned about different
trades that lured them away from the fields for good and towards becoming
tradesmen or merchants.
There is a careful balance found within the communities of Tart I'Abbaye,
Tart-le-Bas, and Tart-le-Haut. There are many possibilities behind why
there was an increase in artisan professions and a decrease in percentage
of agricultural professions. It may have been the increasing educational
system or the loss of young men on the farms. Arguably, one of the strongest
reasons behind the statistics was that the population was growing whereas
the quantity of land was not. The newcomers would, therefore, enter
different professions. There were large increases in all of the subgroups
of the artisans. Builders were building for the new villagers, tailors
were using new fabrics, and metals workers were building new tools.
A famous quote from the industrial revolution is "Necessity is
the mother of invention." This was especially true with the relationship
between agriculture and the artisans. A strong reason behind the statistics
was that the artisan world was blossoming because the agricultural community
needed new things. There is no one reason behind any form of statistics.
Life back then - - as it is now - - is complicated with many explanations.
The census both answers questions and asks them.
Bretonne, Retif De La. My Father's Life. Gloucester, England: Alan
Sutton Publishing Limited, 1986.
Department Archives of Cote d'Or, Tart I'Abbaye, Censuses of 1836,
185 1, and 1866.
Department Archives of Cote d'Or, Tart-le-Bas, Censuses of 1836, 1851,
Department Archives of Cote d'Or, Tart-le-Haut, Censuses of 1836, 1851,
Habermann, Heidi. "Paper for Family, Community, and Class."
South Hadley, MA: Mount Holyoke College, 1996.
McPhee, Peter. A Social HistoKy of France 1780-1880. London, England:
Moulin, Annie. Peasanja and Society in France since 1789. Cambridge,
England: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1991.
Schwartz, Robert. "Letters through E-mail." South Hadley,
MA: Mount Holyoke College, November 1996.
Tindall, Gillian. Celestine. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company,