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Dietz, Feike; Kirmse, Stefan B.

Generations and Lifecycles in Early Modern History (1500-1800)

In: (Ed.)
The European Experience
A Multi-Perspective History of Modern Europe, 1500–2000

Open Book Publishers


In the early modern period, life stages—the ages in which human life is divided—were approached as natural rather than social phenomena, which determined the qualities and behaviour that could be expected for people of different ages. A particular interest in the life stages of childhood and youth developed from the sixteenth century onwards. How were young people and their progression from infancy to adulthood imagined, and what behaviour was expected of them? What did these expectations have to do with existing power relations in early modern society? In addition to answering these questions, this chapter also suggests that older (particularly male and upper-class) youth possessed some space to make their own subculture—which sometimes caused generational conflicts between people at different life stages.