Bourgeoisie



In French : Bourgeoisie, in German : Bürgertum, which the Langenscheidt dictionary translates to English : middle class.

The Bourgeoisie of the early 19th century can be differentiated according to their wealth and lifestyle into Grand Bourgeoisie (Grossbürgertum, upper middle class), those who lived like noblemen, f.i. the Rothschilds, Krupps etc. (a good number of them, at some point of time, was ennobled), and the Petit Bourgeoisie or Kleinbürgertum, the lower middle class.
Another criterion to differentiate them would be their political stand. A segment of the burghers in Germany traditionally was loyal to their respective monarchy, perhaps because their respective enterprise benefitted from good relations with the court (the title 'Hoflieferant' (supplier of the court) was good for business. Others saw the traditional constitution, the ancient privileges, protect their business against unwelcome competition.
A group increasingly influential became the Bildungsbürgertum or educated middle class. In countries where political activity was suppressed, books and newspapers were censored, the far majority of scholars and of their students thought liberal and patriotic, differing in the risk they were willing to take by openly taking position. The Frankfurt German National Parliament of 1848-1849 was called the Parliament of the Professors, because of the high percentage of university professors represented there. In 1837 the Göttingen 7 criticized the abrogation of the constitution of Hannover by King Ernst August and were expelled from the country - and were celebrated as heroes inside and outside of the Kingdom of Hannover. By their publications, historians, linguists and other scholars contributed to the development of a national culture - they wrote national histories, compiled compendia of documents of national history, collected national legends, fairytales, folk songs, complied dictionaries, wrote grammars. Artists, in poems, paintings, even in music, stressed national themes.
Among the Bourgeoisie of the early 19th century, the majority would have thought liberal, wishing for a liberal constitution.

The Bourgeoisie was defined through their position in the economy, through their education, through their choice of lifestyle. Cleanliness, appropriate clothing, good manners, a good education were valued (which distinguished them from the Proletariat, which could not afford these. The Bourgeoisie stressed the (often newly) standardized language; the peasants continued to speak dialect, prevented their children to attend elementary school during the harvest, and rarely sent children to institutions of higher learning. Newspapers, the vernacular novels and theatre plays appealed to a bourgeois readership/audience. The Bourgeoisie looked for new fields of leisure activity, the sports movement being an example. The Bourgeoisie, on the one side, distinguished herself from nobility, on the other side it tried to imitate noble lifestyle, within their financial limits, to an extent than some families strove to acquire marriages into the nobility for their daughters or noble titles for themselves.







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This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on October 4th 2003, last revised on November 16th 2004

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