IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > B. Early Modern Europe, 1479–1815 > 3. Europe, 1648–1814 > c. Culture and Popular Culture
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
c. Culture and Popular Culture
Recurrent interest in classical styles of art and architecture characterized much European culture in the later 17th and through the 18th century. The 17th century saw the perfecting of the Baroque style (characterized by freedom of form, motion, and feeling combined with ornamentation) and its use in the great palaces, statuery, and gardens of the absolute monarchs. In literature and drama, French classicism held considerable sway. The Enlightenment also encouraged a new interest in the essay.  1
In the 18th century, a countercurrent of sentimental literature began to gain ground, as the novel was introduced. This would lead to more formal Romanticism by the 1790s, as in the emotionally charged work of German writers like Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832).  2
Significant changes in popular culture also occurred from the 17th century onward in western Europe. Protestant and then Catholic writers encouraged new attention to family relationships. An emphasis on the importance of love in marriage developed in various social groups, resulting in growing tolerance by the 1730s for young people who sought to avoid marriages arranged against their will. New interest in children, encouraged by Enlightenment interest in education, led to a reduction in the swaddling of infants in western Europe and, in the wealthier classes, a growing interest in providing educational toys and books. From about 1780 onward, particularly in the lower classes, sexual habits began to change, involving an increase in non-marital sexual activity, which did not lead to marriage between partners and, thus, produced a rise in illegitimate births.  3
Spurred by shifts in government policy, popular beliefs in magic and witchcraft either declined or found less opportunity for public expression. Popularization of science and the Enlightenment encouraged interest in new forms of thought, particularly among urban groups. Literacy increased. New institutions, like insurance companies, fire houses, and lost-and-found departments, signaled a growing belief that planning could reduce risks. Traditional practitioners like cunning men, previously used to seek lost items, declined, though in medicine popular healers continued to be valued.  4
With commercial expansion, a new consumer spirit spread. Popular use of purchased goods like sugar, coffee, and tea expanded. Interest in manufactured, stylish clothing increased.  5
Popular culture was also colored by new, enthusiastic religious beliefs, like Pietism in Germany (See The Hohenzollern Dynasty) and Methodism in England (See 1738, May 24). (See Culture and Popular Culture)  6
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.