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Childhood During The English Renaissance

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Childhood During the English Renaissance

In the 16th century, the English life style was dramatically affected by the renaissance. Because more than half of England's population was under 25 years of age, children were a primary focus in life. The form and quality of a child's education varied according to the economic and social status of the family, sex of the child, the expectations of their parents, and the availability of the schooling.

At age seven, children were thought to be capable of being instructed. Childhood was also thought to begin at age seven and end at age fourteen. Children under seven years of age were still considered infants and were under the complete care of women. ("Encyclopedia" 417) In some cases, children under fourteen were able to commit adult crimes. On the other side of the legal system, however, some young men were forced to bear arms as young as nine years old.

In the 16th century, children did not become adults when they reached a certain age. Adulthood only came when a child's father went before a judge and legally granted his child their independence. (Malvasi "Renaissance") A father would normally do this when his child was in their early teens to their late twenties. In some cases, boys were emancipated as young as nine years of age. ("Encyclopedia" 417)

It was not uncommon for families to have twelve to fifteen children. In rich households, many servants did all of the housework. In poor households, children took care of all of the chores. (Marzalek "Life") Normally, the older children took part in watching the younger children. The rest of the daily chores were split evenly among all of the children.

Because there were not any super markets in this time period, all meals had to be prepared from scratch. Normally this was the girls' job. Young women also helped their mothers with the needlework. (Marzalek "Life") They created blankets, mattresses, pillow cases, and the

family's clothing.

The young men of the family assisted their father in hunting for the family's next meal. They usually caught cod, shrimp, crabs, oysters, sausage, pigeons, ducks, blackbirds or anything else they could find before meal time. (Marzalek "Life") The younger boys often ran around picking up feathers to fill pillows and mattresses.

In the 16th century, medical technology was not nearly as advanced as it is today. Which made children extremely susceptible to disease and death. Even in the most privileged of households, several children may die in their early years of childhood. In peasant families, who ever survived, was considered extremely lucky. A peasant mother would be thankful to have one grown child after many years of child birth. ("Daily Life") Death for children and adults was considered to be a matter of fate and occurred so frequently that a high mortality rate was thought of as normal.

Babies who were born to women that were slaves or that could not afford have them might have been left at orphanages. Many children were motherless, fatherless or with out any parents at all. If children were orphans, relatives would often raise them. Orphans who were from a wealthy and prestigious family were often shamelessly exploited by their new guardians. Commonly, the most deprived children were those who lived in foster homes. ("Encyclopedia" 419)

During the renaissance, the typical school hours were 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Breakfast and lunch were normally served in school, leaving children to eat dinner elsewhere. Unlike today, schools were not in session on Thursday and Saturday afternoons. Sundays were considered a day of rest and prayer. (Marszalek "Mount") Children had two-week Christmas and Easter breaks. Some children did not have to go to school if their family lacked the appropriate funding or the family requested that the child stay and work for the family business. (Marzalek "Mount")

The children learned the alphabet from what was called a hornbook. Hornbooks resembled a bat that was used in the game of cricket. The alphabet and the Lord's prayer were on a piece of paper stuck to the wood, with a thin, transparent piece of deer of elk horn fixed over it. (Marszalek "Mount") Hornbooks were also very expensive, leaving one to be shared among many students. Only wealthy families could afford their own hornbooks. If the family was noble enough, they would have the family's coat of arms or a symbol inscribed on the back. (Marszalek "Mount")

Normally, formal education was reserved for the children of the noble and rich. It was said



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