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"The Education of the Countryman in Lippe" (1789)

This text offers an odd combination of description (of the lives of youthful and adolescent villagers, especially those not destined to inherit a family farm) and prescription (particularly of normative daily workloads). From its rhetorical form, it is clear that the text was meant to serve as an address or sermon to village audiences. At the same time, however, it also offered the educated reading public a summary of what custom, as understood by the social authorities, dictated when it came to the common folk’s daily lives.

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The Education of the Countryman in Lippe

It will not be unimportant but rather useful for philosophers, teachers, and economists to become better acquainted with the person and education of the man who [ . . . ] every day from early morning to late at night occupies himself with works benefitting the common good, who contributes to multiplying harvests, who unceasingly sees to the additional breeding of livestock, making its reproduction his concern.

In the same way that general natural history became instructive and useful only once people observed more carefully and studied more diligently the behavior and character of individual animals, knowledge of human nature and human kindness can be fostered only if instead of general formulas and commonplaces, one gathers individual traits and observations from people who were born under the same sky as we were and who comprise the most numerous part of the nation.

In addition, the following description of the education and affairs of the countryman in Lippe from childhood to male adulthood can help spread the word about industriousness, hard work, and business, so that the ignorant may not lack examples for imitation.

Immediately after his birth, this pupil of nature has all of the advantages that are necessary for developing a body that with advancing years is supposed to be exposed to all of the vicissitudes of humid air and rough weather and be trained for hard work. On his mother’s bosom, he receives the strengthening milk. [ . . . ]

Just as water from a fresh spring strengthens more than water from stagnant pools, his first nourishment must be immensely conducive to the child’s health and growth.

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