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 officials and local communities.
2.4.1: 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, the balance between population and the food supply stabilized, resulting in steady population growth.
2.4.1.A: 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).
2.4.1.B: In the 18th century, plague disappeared as a major epidemic disease, and inoculation reduced smallpox mortality.
2.4.2: 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.
2.4.3: By the 18th century, family and private life reflected new demographic patterns and the effects of the commercial revolution.
2.4.3.A: 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 various birth control methods.
2.4.3.B: 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.
2.4.4: Cities offered economic opportunities, which attracted increasing migration from rural areas, transforming urban life and creating challenges for the new urbanites and their families.
2.4.4.A: The Agricultural Revolution produced more food using fewer workers; as a result, people migrated from rural areas to the cities in search of work.
2.4.4.B: The growth of cities eroded traditional communal values, and city governments strained to provide protection and a healthy environment.
2.4.4.C: 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.