Early Moderns Europe on Children

Early modern Europe was undoubtedly different from present day, particularly in the way children were raised. Due to high childhood mortality rates, parents had little concern for the child. More often than not, children were assumed to be miniature adults and were treated as such. Some, namely nobles, were even disgusted by children. This affected child rearing greatly. Children were punished harshly when displaying undesirable behaviours. The nobility would hand their kids to nannies, having little desire to care for the child on their own. However, there some exceptions. Some parents were compassionate towards their children.

Punishing children in the 16th century was not uncommon. It was often encouraged. "A man who loves his son will whip him often so that when he grows up, he may be a joy to him," (doc 3). This source was taken from a Russian manual on household management, meaning it was geared towards farmers. Farmers needed their children to be obedient so they would be more likely to help out with chores. King Henry IV also asked of his son's governess to whip his son. The king was also whipped as a young boy and claimed he profited from it (doc 8).

The noble people had no need to care for their own child, so they usually had little to do with them. Doc 4 states that Benvenuto Cellini visited his 2 year old son, however, he rather be on with his own life than to deal with the toddler. As he wanted to leave, Cellini's child threw a fit that he saw undesirable and left the child to cry. Similarly, doc 6   explains of a noble who finds newborns unlovable and refuses to be in their presence during feeding.

As the harshities of the time period have been listed, it is important to know that not all parents treated their kids as such. Some, such as Margaret Cavendish, treated their children with tenderness and used reason rather than beating (doc 9). Another example, doc 12, states, "An excess of rigor and an excess of indulgence are both to be avoided."...