...About 45 per cent of the Frenchmen born in the eighteenth century died before the age of ten. Few of the survivors reached adulthood before the death of at least one of their parents. And few parents reached the end of the procreative years, because death interrupted them. Terminated by death, not divorce, marriages lasted an average of fifteen years, half as long as they do in France today. ...Stepmothers proliferated everywhere - far more so than stepfathers, as the remarriage rate among widows was one in ten. Stepchildren may not have been treated like Cinderella, but relations between siblings probably were harsh. A new child often meant the difference between poverty and indigence.
The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History - Robert Darnton

from chapter one, Peasants Tell Tales: The Meaning of Mother Goose, in The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History.


(After the break my apologies for the HUGE font...)


This is my second reading of this book - and the history behind, for example, all the fairy tales involving stepmothers is still fascinating. Similarly grounded in reality - the idea that parents would need to lose their children in the woods because they couldn't feed them (Hansel and Gretel).


Meanwhile, the next time you hear anyone bemoan the loss of the good old days when divorce rates weren't so high - point out to them that one of the reasons is that in the past people didn't live that long, so death ended marriages. This is also the reason you'll rarely find historians rambling on about "the good old days" - because they usually weren't all that good.




Ok I'm not going to be using Booklikes for quotes until they get rid of the GIANT FONT. Ouch - that takes up way too much space for folk to scroll past, sorry about that everyone! I tried, but I can't put the page break in the middle of that quote. Since I tend to quote chunks of text rather than a sentence or two, this is important. (I like to give a good sample of the book so others can see the author's writing style.) I'll be sharing other lengthy quotes like this in the text option until the font size is a bit less "in your face."


If you don't see the hugeness of the font in the dashboard view, check it out on my blog page. On my end that seems obnoxiously large. Maybe that's just me?