LATELY — 18 May 2008

Fortunately, peasants are human beings

Late 17th C. attitudes towards peasants:

It is true that peasants are human beings, but they are somewhat less refined and are coarser than the others. One only has to observe their behaviour and their gestures to see how easy it is to distinguish a peasant from someone with manners … Their odious way of speaking and behaving is obvious to everyone … When they eat, they don’t use cutlery but thrust their hands straight into the bowl … It might almost be said that peasants should be treated like dried cod: they are best when they have been given a full load of work to do, for then they are disciplined and regimented. The peasant always wants to be master, if his master allows him to give himself airs and graces. No one knows better how stubborn the peasants are than he who has lived among them for a long time. And one thing is certain, no amount of just saying the right thing will change a peasant, the only thing that he understands is firm language supported by threats of corporal punishment.

(From The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648–1815, by Tim Blanning, pp. 186–187.)