Document-based question (DBQ) “Levels of Literacy” (60 minutes, 1,000 words minimum)
Task: Describe the variations in the levels of literacy in Old Regime France and trace these variations over time. Analyze the factors that promoted or discouraged the spread of literacy.
Analysis of fourteen documents for the DBQ “Literacy in France” essay question:
Document # 1:
Document # 1 was a comparison of the degree of literacy in France between the seventeenth and late eighteenth century as well as between men and women. During the reign of Louis XIV (1638 – 1715), focusing on the years from 1686 to 1690, merely more than forty percent of the French men were literate …show more content…
Overall, we dare say, the members of the Second and Third Estate, virtually all men and most women, were fully literate by the time of the French Revolution.
Among the artisans (also socially part of the Third Estate), we see a slightly different picture: fifty percent of the male artisans were literate in 1680, yet this rate would increase to eighty percent by 1789. Only twenty percent of the artisans’ wives or female artisans were literate in 1680, but fifty percent by the time of the French Revolution. Most male artisans, and half of the women, could therefore read and write by the time that the Bastille fell.
The next group to be examined was the peasants, who were part of the Third Estate as well, and, without a doubt, the vast majority of the population in a still medieval agrarian society by the time of outbreak of the revolution. In 1680, only twenty percent of the more prosperous male farmers in the entire country could read or write. That number would increase to forty-five percent by 1789, indicating that every second affluent French farmer could neither read nor write by the time of the French Revolution. (The literacy levels of poorer farmers were not even examined in the first place, as they would have been even more sobering.) Literacy among the wives of the French farmers was as low as zero percent in 1680, slowly increasing to a mere ten percent by 1789. The fact that French farmers would partially take sides with the French clergy and nobility