Photographic book

German society in the 17th century


Bavarian Alps
Germany

Almost a century passed before Germany’s population recovered to a level near that of before the Thirty Years’ War, reaching about 20 million in 1750. Frequent harvest failures, disease, and unemployment left about a quarter of the population destitute, leading to widespread migration within the empire and the growth of a criminal underclass in many cities. Emigration was another option, and more than 200,000 Germans had left for the Americas by the end of the 18th century. Urban populations continued to grow, most dramatically in the Prussian capital of Berlin, which grew from 6,000 in 1640 to 55,000 in 1700, and to 150,000 in 1800. The much older and more cosmopolitan Austrian capital of Vienna had a population of 210,000 by 1800.

The social order of the Middle Ages remained strikingly unchanged. Serfdom was abolished in 1773 in Prussia but was still widely practiced. In Austria it was abolished in 1781 but restored at Joseph’s death in 1791. West of the Elbe, free peasant farmers continued to constitute the largest social group, with domestic servitude the single largest occupational category (10 to 15 percent of the general population). Landed aristocrats often intermarried with wealthy merchant families. The new political identity of citizen became more common in the mid-18th century but was still often used interchangeably with the designation subject. Some princely states, most notably the archbishoprics of Salzburg and Würzburg, developed elaborate court cultures and patronized the arts. In Prussia, many members of the nobility were drawn into the newly professionalized army. Encarta "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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