Society in the Ancien Regime

by ariellep ~ March 15th, 2010. Filed under: Chapter 14: The Early Modern State.

The Ancien Regime began in 1713 with the Peace of Utrecht, for the western Europeans, and the Treaty of Nystand, which brought peace to the east. Socially the manorial system was thriving. Called Seigneurialism in France, the system was put in place to give the wealthy almost absolute control over the poor.

The aristocrats in the early modern period dominated almost every aspect of life; religion, politics, the economy, and were at the top of the social ladder.  They inducted a manoral system, which allowed them to micromanage to their hearts content.

And they most certainly did.  They used and abused the serfs and peasants under their control.  For example, in France the nobles were exempt from the taille, or land tax that the serfs were forced to pay. They were also not required to contribute to the work force, the corvee, like the serfs.  Some landlords took their control to a whole new level by acting as matchmaker.  They arranged marriages between the peasants, which was supposed to “enhance the economic position of the manor”(West, p 395).

Although with this great power came great responsibility.  As the only ones legally able to bear arms, the nobles were often asked to come to the aid of the peasants on their land.