Europeans, in the 18th century experienced changes in marriages and families, children, and food and medical care. Unlike the early years when the people married at young ages, more and more Europeans began to marry at much older ages and form families with an established household. In the early 18th century, children were often neglected; however, as time went on, parents began to express their love more openly for to their children. The diets and medical care of the Europeans improved through new sources of food and experiments.
During the 18th century, Europe and its people were beginning to experience a change where people were marrying at a young age, ignoring the children, and improving in their nutrition and medical care. Compared to the 17th century, couples in the 18th century married at past the age of twenty, whereas before many married in their teens. During this period, most of the people did not marry until past their mid- twenties while some did not marry at all. The change in age was because people would not marry until they had found jobs to establish and support themselves economically.
By the time they married, the new couple would have gained experience on life and pass on what they learned to their children. Even peasants waited until they had owned their own piece of land or some way to earn money. Peasant sons waited until they inherited the family farm from their father, and daughters waited until they owned a small dowry for marriage. Rarely were there households that contained 3 generations of a family. Most families left their parents once they married, and it was more likely that their parents moved into their house.
Most mothers were already pregnant by the time they went to marry and had their baby soon after their marriage. In certain countries, such as Austria and Germany, couples needed permission from a lord to marry. There were restrictions placed on certain marriages of the peasants that seemed likely to fail in establishing themselves. It was believed that if peasants were allowed to marry without a check, the number of peasants and the number of abandoned children that cannot support themselves would increase.
In fact, this restriction helped the society sustain a balance between the population and available resources for them. Although people married at older ages and households decreased in number, it increased the security of being able to live longer and better than when married at younger ages and led to the formation of more nuclear families. Parents’ attitude toward their children in the early 18th century were often neglectful, yet near the end of the century, parents changed as they expressed more of their love for them.
Not only were the children neglected, but also they were even abused by their own parents. In the beginning of the century, the use of wet nurses was extremely popular and widespread. The aristocrats believed that breast-feeding was something of the common people and looked down upon it. Children were even killed by their own families if there were too many mouths to feed, especially daughters. Even when it became illegal, parents found ways to get rid of unwanted children.
For example, parents claimed that they had accidently killed their children while under the influence of alcohol. Most abandoned children were of married couples who had too many mouths to feed in their families. The clergy and doctors influenced parents to be apathetic toward their children because of the frequent deaths that occurred. Children were neglected because they likely to die soon, and they died mostly because they did not receive the proper care. Many families sent their children to factories, where they were often beat.
Emile by Jean–Jacques Rousseau advised parents to be more loving toward their children, nurse their own children instead of using wet-nurses, and clothing them in more comfortable clothes. In Prussia, Protestant German states, and many other states, elementary school became compulsory, leading to more literacy in Europe in general. Even though children were abused and neglected in the early 18th century, parents became noticeably more caring and loving toward their own children by the end of the 1700s.
The European diet and medicine improved throughout the 1700s as population increased, as well as the variety of resources. As starvation decreased and lives lasted longer, the population of Europe increased dramatically. Although there was a difference between the diet of the wealthy and the poor, there was a similarity in their food, which was grain. Rich or poor, bread was the necessity in their life. However, peasants were not able to feel the improvement of food because meat was not as available to them as it was in the 1500s. This was because the population increased, and there were ore mouths to feed. It was the upper class that had more access to meat. The difference in the diet of the wealthy and the poor was that the upper classes had varied meats and fishes, while the fruits and vegetables were for the poor. In fact, the middle class had the healthiest diet that consisted of protein, vegetables, fruits, and grain. Milk was not consumed because it was thought to cause illness, leading to deficiency in vitamins in the people’s bodies and soon diseases. The wealthy were deprived of vitamins A and C because of their dislike for vegetables.
The discovery of potatoes helped the poor escape starvation and consume the necessary vitamins. Potatoes proved to be useful during the Seven Years’ War in Germany when famines occurred everywhere. Doctors, through the Enlightenment thinking, researched and experimented new methods to cure illness. For example, surgeons made huge progress in that they learned how to save lives of soldiers who had deep wounds. Excluding the midwives, most of the medically trainees were male because woman were distrusted and thought of as witches.
Although the goal was to form simple principles of medicines, following Newton’s laws of physics, it did not result the way the medical thinkers had hoped. Diderot called for hospital reforms when patients came out with diseases they never had in the first place. Before William Tuke established the first humane sanatorium in the 1790s, many patients were chained to the wall, forgotten, treated as prisoners to maintain order. There were many experiments and investigations made that formed ridiculous conclusions, like the theory that moonlight caused mental illness.
However, in the end, experiments and investigations resulted with real conclusions, like the vaccination to smallpox. Edward Jenner is the creator of the smallpox vaccination that helped save millions of lives throughout Europe. The advancements in the European diet and medical care during the 18th century were noticeably great and led to present day findings. Europeans in the 18th century experienced extensive changes in the areas of marriage and family, attitudes toward children, and diet and medical care.
Marriages occurred much later in people’s lives and families were more stable because the parents had already established themselves with work to bring in an income. Children that were once disregarded came to be loved and cared directly by their own parents, instead of a stranger. Medical care improved through many experimentations and investigations, as well as diets for the wealthy to the poor with new food discovered from the New World. The changes throughout the 18th century bettered the lives of the Europeans, increasing their lifespan, having a more caring family, and improving their health.