The World in the 1780’s- Chapter 1- The Age of Revolutions- Hobsbawm

Hobsbawm begins by providing a broad overview of the world as it was in 1789, with a  focus on Western Europe. Not all of Earth’s land masses were known or particularly well-mapped (with the exception of the oceans), the population was much smaller, and the climate was generally colder and wetter. Communications, on the other hand, were relatively advanced when compared to the Middle Ages. People and goods would travel the seas and arrive at ports around the world in relatively quick speeds- from Paris to Boston or New York and Veracruz to Seville. Few people could read and most lived and died in the place of their birth. The world was overwhelmingly rural with very few cities that people of today would consider large. There was a social division between those living in the cities and those in the countryside, with the city-dwellers treating the peasantry with contempt (although they both were extremely provincial). The town was dependent upon the countryside though, and everywhere we see that the lords, middle classes, churches, and bureaucracies all derived their prosperity from the peasantry who paid rents, taxes, etc. . to the large landholders. Because of this fact, the agrarian issue was fundamental and it rested on the tensions between those who owned the land and those who actually worked the land.

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