Seven peasant communities in pre-industrial Europe. A comparative study of French, Italian and Swedish rural parishes (18th and early 19th century)
This dissertation is an attempt at providing comparable descriptions of the social structure of seven peasant communities in pre-industrial Europe: four French, one Italian and two Swedish. It is concerned with elements of the social structure such as family and kinship organization, geographical mobility and the life cycle of individuals.' It also describes the relations between different, villages, and between the social classes composing the communities. The evidence used is derived from some of the most standardized 18th and 19th century documents: parish registers and early census listings. This explains why results obtained from very different cultural areas -Catholic and Protestant, economically advanced and backward- can be compared. Swedish, Italian and French parish records are fairly similar. Comparable records lead to comparable results: quantitative indices describing geographical mobility, household structure, kinship networks, choice of godparents, can therefore be calculated in the same manner for several parishes. I have also tried to present a fairly detailed description of the agrarian structure of each community and to study the interaction between economic life and other aspects of the social structure such as family and kinship or geographical mobility. The seven villages analysed in the dissertation represent four types of agricultural organization: large-scale or capitalist farming, (northern France), share-cropping (Tuscany), middle peasants (Sweden) and one variety of feudal system (Brittany). Traditional society does not seem to have been very homogeneous: many distinct patterns of family and kinship organization, or of geographical mobility, existed in 18th and early 19th century Europe. Although certainly not the only one, agrarian organization was one of the important factors which explain these differences.