AP European History
Concept 2.4 – The experiences of everyday life were shaped by demographic, environmental, medical, and technological changes.


The legacies of the 16th-century population explosion, which roughly doubled the European population, were social disruptions and demographic disasters that persisted into the 18th century. Volatile weather in the 17th century harmed agricultural production. In some localities, recurring food shortages caused undernourishment that combined with disease to produce periodic spikes in mortality. By the 17th century, the European marriage pattern, which limited family size, became the most important check on population levels, although some couples also adopted birth control practices to limit family size. By the middle of the 18th century, better weather, improvements in transportation, new crops and agricultural practices, less epidemic disease, and advances in medicine and hygiene allowed much of Europe to escape from the cycle of famines that had caused repeated demographic disaster. By the end of the 18th century, reductions in child mortality and increases in life expectancy constituted the demographic underpinnings of new attitudes toward children and families.

Particularly in western Europe, the demographic revolution, along with the rise in prosperity, produced advances in material well-being that did not stop with the economic: Greater prosperity was associated with increasing literacy, education, and rich cultural lives (the growth of publishing and libraries, the founding of schools, and the establishment of orchestras, theaters, and museums). By the end of the 18th century, it was evident that a high proportion of Europeans were better fed, healthier, longer lived, and more secure and comfortable in their material well-being than at any previous time in human history. This relative prosperity was balanced by increasing numbers of the poor throughout Europe, who strained charitable resources and alarmed government of cials and local communities.

Supporting Concepts and Examples

In the 17th century, small landholdings, low-productivity agricultural practices, poor transportation, and adverse weather limited and disrupted the food supply, causing periodic famines. By the 18th century, Europeans began to escape from the Malthusian imbalance between population and the food supply, resulting in steady population growth.

By the middle of the 18th century, higher agricultural productivity and improved transportation increased the food supply, allowing populations to grow and reducing the number of demographic crises (a process known as the Agricultural Revolution).
In the 18th century, plague disappeared as a major epidemic disease, and inoculation reduced smallpox mortality.
Peter the Great “westernized” the Russian state and society, transforming political, religious, and cultural institutions; Catherine the Great continued this process.

The consumer revolution of the 18th century was shaped by a new concern for privacy, encouraged the purchase of new goods for homes, and created new venues for leisure activities.

New concern for privacy:

New consumer goods for homes:

New leisure venues:

By the 18th century, family and private life reflected new demographic patterns and the effects of the commercial revolution.

Although the rate of illegitimate births increased in the 18th century, population growth was limited by the European marriage pattern and, in some areas, by the early practice of birth control.
As infant and child mortality decreased and commercial wealth increased, families dedicated more space and resources to children and child-rearing, as well as private life and comfort.

Cities offered economic opportunities, which attracted increasing migration from rural areas, transforming urban life and creating challenges for the new urbanites and their families.

The Agricultural Revolution produced more food using fewer workers; as a result, people migrated from rural areas to the cities in search of work.
The growth of cities eroded traditional communal values, and city governments strained to provide protection and a healthy environment.
The concentration of the poor in cities led to a greater awareness of poverty, crime, and prostitution as social problems, and prompted increased efforts to police marginal groups.

Reading Assignments

Reading 1: Pages 531-536

The European States:
     Enlightened Absolutism?
     The Atlantic Seaboard States

Reading 2: Pages 536-543

The European States:
     Absolutism in Central and Eastern Europe
     The Mediterranean World
     The Scandinavian States
     Enlightened Absolutism Revisited

Reading 3: Pages 543-547

Wars and Diplomacy:
     The War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748)
     The Seven Years’ War (1756-1763)
     European Armies and Warfare

Reading 4: Pages 547-550

Economic Expansion and Social Change:
     Growth of the European Population
     Family, Marriage, and Birthrate Patterns

Reading 5: Pages 550-555

Economic Expansion and Social Change:
     Was There an Agricultural Revolution?
     New Methods of Finance
     European Industry
     Mercantile Empires and Worldwide Trade

Reading 6: Pages 555-560

The Social Order of the Eighteenth Century:
     The Peasants
     The Nobility
     The Inhabitants of Towns and Cities

Chapter Glossary
Chapter Study Guide
Chapter 18 Outline
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