Langer – The Social Question

To eat or not to eat, that is the social question…


During the decades preceding 1848, a rising concern came to be known as pauperization (dependence on relief). Thanks to the growth of the European population, after 1760 overpopulation began to sit in. Too many people led to too little jobs. Previously, the alarming increase in pauperization was mistakenly attributed to the progress of industrialization. Modern scholars recognized that non-industrialized areas were just as much to blame as manufacturing centers.

Undoubtedly, a rise in real wages can be concluded but only for the skilled, well-paid workers. Everywhere in Europe workers like skilled handicrafts and trades, foundrymen (factory workers), and mechanics earned wages that enabled them to live comfortably. The condition of the poorest class depended on the availability of work as aggregate prices declined and food prices increased. Professions like handloom weaving felt the struggle the most because they were not ready to compete with the machine until 1830s.

Evidence concluded that the average worker could only earn enough to support a small family of three children while being fully employed. Due to these conditions, there was a widespread employment of women and children. They could do the work as well as men while being offered only half or one-quarter the wages of a man. Employers could also subject both women and children to the grueling hours of the factories. A normal workday consisted of 12 to 15 hours with only a maximum of an hour break.

Karl Marx estimated that in 1845 one in ten of the European population was a pauper. With food consumption minimal and horrible work conditions if there was any work to find, pauperism became a huge problem during the times before 1848. It is no wonder that this period is left with a question in the name.

For more information on the working conditions preceding 1848 read this article:  Economic Crises and the European Revolutions of 1848 – jstor


By Kristan Wilkins

Word Count: 325

Cotton Statistics: “Cotton is King”

The most used phrase to describe the U.S. economic growth of the 19thcentury was “Cotton Is King.” Based on the statistics of that period, I would say that the phrase sums the period up pretty well.

Cotton production in the United States gained a large share of the world market between the years of 1840 and 1860. The United States accounted for an average of 65.5% throughout that time. The next up would be India with an average of 16.6% following with the rest of Asia, which brought out an average of 7.9%. Continue reading “Cotton Statistics: “Cotton is King””

Chocolate: The Food of the Gods

There is great popularity in the saying, “life is like a box of chocolates,” because of the mystery of the unknown and its correlation to views on life. This basis is seen in both Mayan and Aztec civilizations in their mysticism of chocolate as “food of the Gods” for gain or appeasement. The invention of chocolate was motivated and fueled by religion and sacred beliefs that would in turn create a valued economy based on cocoa beans and a huge trade network.

The history of chocolate is believed to have begun during the ancient Mayan civilization. They quickly realized that the cocoa pod beans from cacao trees could be harvested and made into a beverage. The word chocolate comes from the Mayan word xocolatl, which means “bitter water.” In the process of making xocolatl, there is a removal of cocoa beans from their pods to then ferment and dry out to ultimately come to roast. From there, they would remove the shells, grind the seeds and mix the paste with water, chili peppers, and cornmeal. This process would leave the product tasting bitter, from the lack of sugar.

In Mayan and Aztec cultures, chocolate drinks were used in religious ceremonies and in various other occasions and transactions. Chocolate had a religious significance in that it was a divine origin that was sacred in rituals of birth, marriage, and death. The cacao tree was believed to have been a bridge between the world of heaven and Earth. Therefore, human sacrifices were given in forms of chocolate to appease their God. During the coming-of-age and marriage ceremonies, cocoa beans were given to drink under the belief that the god of learning, Quetzalcoatl, would give his wisdom.

It wouldn’t be long until cocoa beans were incorporated as a means of currency for the Aztecs. They believed that cacao beans were given to them by the Gods and thus were considered more valuable than gold. Cocoa beans were enjoyable by all in the society, but was mostly an upper-class indulgence. Montezuma II, a ruler of the Aztecs, supposedly drank gallons of chocolate each day to boost energy. This kind of demand for cocoa beans produced a vast network of trade routes throughout the region. Following the Aztec conquering of the Mayans, the Mayans were forced to pay “tributes,” or taxes, that could be paid using cocoa beans. Cocoa beans became so important that they were kept in locked boxes and even counterfeited.

The use of cocoa beans created a wide system of trade and currency in Mayan and Aztec societies under the basis of religious beliefs and practices. It was under this guise that cocoa beans became valuable to the extent that one is lead to believe that money does grow on trees. Though chocolate isn’t used as a means of currency in today’s world, it is still a treat enjoyed by almost all who consume it.

Word Count: 483


Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Chocolate.”, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2008,

“History of Chocolate.”, A&E Television Networks, 14 Dec. 2017,

“International Cocoa Organization.” Chocolate Use in Early Aztec Cultures,

“Museum of the National Bank of Belgium.” A Tasty Currency: Cocoa – Museum of the National Bank of Belgium,

“The History of Chocolate: The Mayans and Aztecs.” Godiva,

“Tree-to-Bar Basics – Sweet Matter Physicist.” Sweet Matter Physicist,

Zemeckis, Robert, director. Forrest Gump.

Gies’ “Triumphs & Failures of Ancient Technology”

The Roman civilization achieved an advanced level of technological knowledge that was inherited form technological innovations of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages. These inherited technologies include: Egyptian stonemasonry techniques, sailing techniques, variations to the Phoenicia mariner-merchant’s alphabet, agricultural tools and techniques, mining technology, iron metallurgy, handicraft production, glass manufacturing, and building construction (such as the Pont du Gard shown below). Continue reading “Gies’ “Triumphs & Failures of Ancient Technology””