"Well, Bossuet doesn’t mind it. Does he.”
Bossuet, prodded, poked his nose over the top of his book and shrugged. “I do not. As long as you drape something tidily over it. There are generally at least four legs in this room and very often six or more, so why should I…
(So I’m just going to blame everyone. EVERYONE. Just going to go off and cry about Antoine-Jean Gros, Georges Pontmercy, and Mabeuf….)
50-Year-Old Mystery Over the Identity of the Soldier in "A Farewell at Elba" Solved
A recently uncovered letter by British captain John Aubrey solves one part of the Gros mystery that has puzzled art historians for over half a century.
the average life expectancy in 1830s france was 36.7 years.
AKA, while the amis’ early deaths were tragic, they actually did all right for the time….and jean valjean was basically an actuarial miracle.
(source: adolphe, comte d’angeville’s essai sur la statistique de la population francaise, 1836.)
As an epidemiologist, I can’t quite let this go without comment. (barricadeur, this isn’t me trying to tell you you’re wrong, just a clarification.)
It’s a very common misconception, but ‘average life expectancy’ does not mean that the majority of people die at around whatever that average life expectancy is. The majority of people in 1830s France did not die in their mid-thirties. Actually, a relatively small fraction of the population would have died in their mid-thirties. This is because the ‘average life expectancy’ averages ALL deaths, and when you have a substantial percentage of the population dying in childhood — as was true, everywhere, until the 20th century — that drags your ‘average life expectancy’ way down.
The average life expectancy of the population as a whole was in the mid-thirties, but the average life expectancy of anyone who lived past childhood — generally, around age seven or eight was the ‘safe’ age — was much higher. Among the European urban poor in the 18th and 19th centuries, the infant and childhood mortality was often greater than 50%, mostly due to infectious disease. If you survived childhood, though, you had a good chance of living to your fifties and sixties. Averaging the two together gives you a total ‘life expectancy’ in the thirties, but because of the way the mortality curve falls, when you are concerned with adults they are likely to live well past their thirties. The Amis therefore did die young — they didn’t die when they were children, so they had every reasonable assumption of living until they were old men.
Moreover, average life expectancies of the population as a whole don’t take into consideration class, which had a huge influence on life expectancy (again, until the 20th century). The upper class (of anywhere and anywhen) has always had lower infant mortality, longer lives, and less risk of dying as a young adult through illness or accident. In 19th c. France, the upper class regularly lived into their seventies and eighties; M. Gillenormaund, in his 90s, would have been considered an old man but it would not have been considered particularly remarkable that he was an old man, after all, he was rich. The majority of the Amis were wealthy — so again, they did die young, they had every reasonable assumption of approaching M. Gillenormaund in age (as, presumably, Marius did).
Valjean is something of a special case. He did beat the odds on several occasions: first, he survived childhood, which is a feat in and of itself, given that he was born poor. (Although he was rural poor; that makes a positive difference; death rates were distinctly different between the city and the country because of the burden of infectious disease.) Second, he survived Toulon; spiderfire ran the numbers recently and determined he had a 1 in 3 chance of surviving 19 years. And third, he survived moving to the city (M-sur-M and then Paris, FFS) as an adult, which wouldn’t have been an issue except that, as mentioned above, he was rural poor. Historically, the rural population was not exposed to all the crowd diseases as young children, which gave them a better infant mortality rate but a much, much worse mortality rate among adults who later moved to the city; contracting the majority of the common crowd diseases as an adult has a substantially worse outcome than contracting those diseases in childhood. So Valjean is exceptional in that he lived to be an old man, not because there were no old men in 19th c. France, but because of his life history.
I dug up an awful lot of data/information about early nineteenth century French mortality rates and life expectancy some time ago. Should I see if I can find it back?
Yes!!!! I’m going to try and find the relevant information in my epidemiology textbooks, but I doubt any of that information is going to be anywhere near as narrow as ‘19th c. France’. IIRC, historical data given in the textbooks were either ‘case-study’ examples, where you were given just one historical record as an ‘example’, or was Europe-wide and highly generalized.
(Oh gosh, I’m so glad I had actually left some notes for myself as to where to find everything back. I’m not always so foresighted.)
Okay so, the exact age people died at is hard to know for sure because there’s no precise, year-by-year data for it before 1899, but by comparing the censuses made in France between 1901 and 1901 and the information the civil registry could give them, it was possible to make good estimates.
Now I’m just going to cut short and graphspam.
Age distribution according to the 1851 census (men on the left, women on the right; in black are the actual datum, but the white curve is the adjusted one because 1. a lot of people didn’t know their exact age, so they rounded it up to the nearest multiple of 5, and 2. the number of children (alive or dead) was usually either underestimated or not taken into account, hence the lager white bars at the bottom of the pyramid.):
They could even recreate the mortality rates by age in 1853 for men:
(the part of the graph for over 25 should be smoother, it’s the rounding-age-up thing again)
Life expectancy at birth between 1806 and 1898:
And the same thing, but in numbers:
Mortality rates for people aged in infancy, and for the 1-4 and 5-14 years old ranges:
Mortality rates for people aged between 15 and 24 years old:
Oh wow great, there’s no graph for the 25-34 range. Moving on, then.
Mortality rates for people aged in the 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65-74 and 75-84 years old ranges:
Also, from another source, Life expectancy at birth from 1750 to 2000 (women in grey, men in black):
And for anyone who likes to see large tables of numbers with no explanation whatsoever: here are the life tables for men, women, and both sexes for the 19th century in the entirety of France. By year. It’s absolutely great once you can make sense out of it (as far as I can tell, the columns go as: Age - Population alive per 100,000 people - Number of death over the year to come for [column x] people - Same thing, but in presented as a ratio - Average life expectancy for the survivors - and, uh, idk?)
IIRC, 1832 was not a really good year.
mamzellecombeferre a demandé: Lalochezia - Combeferre or Joly
Combeferre was not a vulgar man, nor was he an irritable one. He did not revel in the eloquent profanity of a Courfeyrac or a Bahorel; he never wore the telltale look of fierce self-control that Enjolras often displayed in the face of provocation. If Combeferre was angry, he said so quietly and directly to the person responsible, and explained the reason why.
Which was why Bossuet jumped out of his seat when Combeferre’s voice rang out in the Corinthe: “Fuck this fucking jackass with a fucking pitchfork. Who the fuck does he think he is?”
“Oh dear,” whispered Joly. “I think he had too much wine tonight.”
“Combeferre never overindulges. He takes moderation to extremes. He would man the barricades to defend peaceful discourse, and trample anything that stood between him and the golden mean.” Bossuet craned his neck to get a better look at what precisely had set Combeferre off. It appeared to be a journal of some kind. Combeferre was glaring at it as if the author had described, in loving detail, his private relations with Combeferre’s mother.
“What do you suppose it says?” Joly looked half-alarmed, half-delighted, and no wonder. It was a rare treat to see Combeferre so ruffled.
“Combeferre,” Bossuet called out. He had to repeat himself before Combeferre looked up.
“Hmm?” Combeferre sounded more like himself now, gentle and slightly abstracted.
“Would you be so kind as to enlighten us about the identity of the ‘fucking jackass’ you were excoriating a few moments ago?”
“Oh.” Combeferre frowned. “This arrogant ignoramus has written a denunciation of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire’s theory of the unity of plan. It is plain at a glance that he fails to grasp Saint-Hilaire’s arguments for transcendental anatomy, or the basis of his classification system, or—”
“Unity of what plan?” Bossuet hissed under his breath to Joly, as Combeferre went on.
“I don’t know!”
“You’re the medical student!”
“And you’re the law student. Explain to me how Roman law would have disposed of a case wherein—”
“I concede your point,” Bossuet said hurriedly. “What’s this transcendental anatomy, then? Some of human anatomy seems positively transcendental in the proper context, but somehow I doubt that’s what Combeferre is referring to—”
“—and he is simply parroting Cuvier without even understanding him!” Combeferre finished, thumping his palm on the table for emphasis.
“Hear, hear,” said Joly unconvincingly. “Still, you sounded more worked up about this poor benighted fool than you do about ultras—or Bonapartist democrats, for that matter.”
Combeferre blushed. “I was trying an experiment.”
“To see if your sweetly reasonable mouth would consent to form such abusive words?” Bossuet supposed he was being obnoxious, but felt unable to repress himself.
“To see if using such expressions would vent my rage, and so get rid of it,” Combeferre said, ignoring the mockery.
“And did it?” Joly’s face was suddenly bright with real curiosity. “Do you feel calmer now?”
“My wrath runs as deep as my sense of right, I fear,” Combeferre said lightly, looking away, “and cursing won’t suffice to soothe it.”