History and Statistics: Patterns of Family and Community Life
in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century France

Robert Schwartz History
Harriet Pollatsek Mathematics

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The Changing World of Rural France Jennifer Adams, December 1996

A

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

Year Number of People
1836 960
1866 1029


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

1836 373
1851 311
1866 419

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 groups. 27

Occupations for TLA, TLB, and TLH
  1836 1851 1866
Occupation Count (Percentage) Count (Percentage) Count (Percentage)
Proprietor 17(5%) 27(9%) 34(8%)
Cultivator 43(12%) 16(5%)  
Manoeuvriers 116 (31%) 68 (22%) 27 (6%)
Wage worker 62(17%) 56(18%) 132(32%)
Fermier   39 (13%) 13(3%)
Total Agriculture 238(64%) 206 (66%) 243 (58%)
Building trades 14 (4%) 12 (4%) 32 (8%)
Wood   1(0.3%) 8(2%)
Cloth 18 (5%) 5 (2%) 11(3%)
Metal Trades 12 (3%) 6(2%) 19 (5%)
Other 11 (3%) 8 (3%) 4 (1%)
Total Artisan 55 (15%) 33 (11%) 74 (18%)
Food     10(2%)
Miller 2 (0.5%) 1 (0.3%) 6 (1.4%)
Distiller     1 (0.2%)
Butcher 2 (0.5%) 3 (1%) 3 (0.7%)
Inn /Bar Keeper 2 (0.5%) 5 (2%) 2 (0.5%)
Merchants 3(0.8%) 2 (0.6%) 1 (0.2%)
Total Commercial 9 (2%) 11 (4%) 23 (5%)
Service Worker 56 (15%) 33 (11%) 24 (6%)
Official 4(1%) 6 (2%)  
Other 11 (3%) 22 (7%) 55(13%)

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 her marriage.


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 the
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 only Read and Write
1866 98 27 157
1872 61 9 186

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.

Works Cited:

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, and 1866.

Department Archives of Cote d'Or, Tart-le-Haut, Censuses of 1836, 1851, and 1866.

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: Routledge, 1993.

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, 1995.

 

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