Children In Early Modern Europe DBQ

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In early modern Europe, various assumptions were made about children and how to raise them. Some families went with detachment, tender love, or cruelty. All of these assumptions, more or less, affected child-rearing practices.

In the 1550s in Florence, Italy, Benvenuto Cellini describes a time where he visited his natural, born in wedlock, son. “..when I wanted to leave he refused to let me go.. breaking into a storm of crying and screaming” “I detached myself from my little boy and left him crying his eyes out” (Document 4) Because the childhood mortality rate was so high, men and women would teach themselves to not get themselves so attached to their children, because they would pass away at the cause of some sort of ailment or lack of good health.

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In 1693, in London, a famous philosopher by the name of John Locke wrote an essay/book called, “Some Thoughts Concerning Education”. In it, he writes, “..I do not intend any other but such as suited to the child’s capacity and apprehension” “..they must be treated as rational creatures.. Make them sensible by the mildness of your carriage and composure” When Locke write this he means that if you show your child no emotion, your manner will teach them that everything you do is necessary for their well-being, and thus, teaching them that nothing will be handed to them in life. (Document 11)

In Amsterdam, in 1762, the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau informs us in his writing, “Emile”, about the negativities of indulgence. “An excess of rigor and an excess of indulgence are both to be avoided. If by too much care you spare them every kind of discomfort” Rousseau is telling us that by protecting the children from every sort of misery in the world, you are not preparing them for the harsh life in early modern Europe. (Document 12)

Although most preferred the detachment method when it came to children, some cherished their children and showered them in tender love. Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, writes in a letter about her mother’s way of raising her. “We were bred tenderly, for my mother naturally did strive to please and delight her children, not to cross and torment them..” By this, she believes that cruelty and detachment to children is not healthy for their upbringing, that love is the right, more civilized way up bettering your child’s well-being. (Document 9)

The families that do lose their children at a young age, some don’t grieve while other do so and more. Martin Luther, a Protestant reformer, wrote a letter to a friend on the death of his thirteen year old daughter, Magdalene, in Wittenberg, Germany, 1542. “The force of our natural love is so great that we are unable to refrain from crying and grieving in our hearts and experiencing death ourselves” Luther and his wife loved and cherished their daughter so greatly they were willing to give up their own lives to let their “obedient and respectful” daughter, Magdalene, live on. (Document 2)

Some upper class families whose children do live on, raise their children with the utmost care, the best education, and so forth. Christoph Scheurl, a Nuremburg jurist and diplomat, wrote annual notes to himself about his son Georg’s growth and progress, in Nuremburg, Germany, 1538. “He likes to learn, delights in it. He is now learning Donat and can already cite it from memory” “He knows where everything he puts between his teeth comes from” Christoph has raised his soon-to-be 6 years old son to appreciate what’s given to him, by showing him that the food that he eats is given to him by his father’s hard earned money. Christoph has also taught his son Donat, which is the Latin grammar of Donatus which is not something a lower class child would learn let alone read. (Document 1)

Some of the population of early modern Europe would turn to cruelty when it came to raising their children. They viewed the young as nothing but insignificant beings. For example, King Henry IV wrote a letter to Madame de Montglat, the governess to his six year old son, Louis, in Paris, 1607. “I have a complaint to make: you do not send word that you have whipped my son. I wish and command you to whip him every time he is obstinate or misbehaves” King Henry IV makes this request to the governess because he wants his son to understand that doing a wrong will bring him consequences. Henry thinks he knows best because he was whipped as a child as well. (Document 8)

The Domostroi, a Russian manual on household management written in Moscow, in the 1550s states that, “A man who loves his son will whip him often.. He who disciplines his son will find a profit in him” This document is stating that a man who whips his son, and one who gives him a good education, will make his son turn into a well-disciplined, understanding, humble man. Having a son like this, well give that father bragging rights among his friends. (Document 3)

Jean Benedict, a Franciscan preacher, moralist, and professor of theology, writes A Summary of Sins, in Lyon, France, 1584. In this he writes, “It must be noted that the command of the father obligates the child to obey under pain of mortal sin” In this document, Benedict states that the feeling of performing sin should be enough pain and cruelty to makes the child feel his wrongdoings and repent his sins. (Document 7) In conclusion, in early modern Europe, various assumptions were made about children and how to raise them. Some families went with detachment, tender love, or cruelty. All of these assumptions, more or less, affected child-rearing practices.

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