Browse Primary Sources
Primary sources from world and global history, including images, objects, texts, and digitally-born materials – annotations by scholars contextualize sources.

Apprentices and Masters

Unlike the Marquis de Mirabeau, (see document Tension between Rich and Poor) Jacques Savary sought to promote commerce and those who engaged in it. In this excerpt from his 1757 edition of The Perfect Merchant, which was widely read, Savary comments on the proper relations between apprentices learning a trade and the masters who owned the shop.

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The Saint–Marcel Neighborhood

The writer Louis–Sébastien Mercier recorded in his Portrait of Paris detailed and witty commentaries on many aspects of life among the common people. In this article on the Saint–Marcel neighborhood, he comments on the difficulties faced by urban workers.

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People under the Old Regime

This image shows "the people" as a chained and blindfolded man being crushed under the weight of the rich, including both clergy and nobility. Such a perspective on the period before 1789 purposely exaggerates social divisions and would have found few proponents before the French Revolution, but the image does reveal the social clash felt so intensely by the revolutionaries.

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The Traditional Order Defended

This newspaper article considers the question of equality from the opposite point of view—arguing that without social distinctions making clear who should lead and who should follow, society cannot hold together.

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Arthur Young Views the Countryside

Arthur Young, an Englishman, traveled across France on the eve of the Revolution recording his impressions of life there, particularly those aspects that seemed to him to compare unfavorably with his native land.

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Two Peasants Repairing a Cart

This image of peasants repairing a cart demonstrates both the hard work done by cultivators and their fragile economic situation, which could easily be imperiled by a broken cart. Under such circumstances, poor people constantly repaired durable and personal goods, such as carts or clothing, because they could not afford to replace them with new ones.

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Poverty in Auvergne

The difficulty of life in rural regions led some to leave home and seek a better life elsewhere, particularly in the growing cities. Such migration worried some observers, who feared villages would be emptied and no one would be left to work the land. In the excerpt below, a local government official in the Auvergne region comments on the causes and effects of emigration.

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Poverty Observed!: Journal of a Country Priest

Village priests served as community leaders in a variety of respects, including keeping a register of births, marriages, and deaths. One such curate, the abbé Lefeuvre, also included in his register impressions of life during the severe winter of 1709, which give a sense of the difficult and fragile lives of the poor in rural towns in the eighteenth century.

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"I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier" [Song]

By 1915, Americans began debating the need for military and economic preparations for war. Strong opposition to "preparedness" came from isolationists, socialists, pacifists, many Protestant ministers, German Americans, and Irish Americans (who were hostile to Britain).

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The School Journal, 1907 - [Magazine]

Although early issues of the School Journal drew extensively on a British literary heritage and reinforced imperial values, even in its first year of publication by the New Zealand Department of Education (1907), there were stories, articles and poetry authored locally and written about the colonial heritage and environment.

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