In Europe, the last millennium has been shaped by successive waves of change, but which shifts, in which centuries, have really shaped the modern world? Historian Ian Mortimer identifies the 10 leading drivers of change
Most people think of castles as representative of conflict. However, they should be seen as bastions of peace as much as war. In 1000 there were very few castles in Europe – and none in England. This absence of local defences meant that lands were relatively easy to conquer – William the Conqueror’s invasion of England was greatly assisted by the lack of castles here. Over the 11th century, all across Europe, lords built defensive structures to defend them and their land. It thus became much harder for kings to simply conquer their neighbours. In this way, lords tightened their grip on their estates, and their masters started to think of themselves as kings of territories, not of tribes. Political leaders were thus bound to defend their borders – and govern everyone within those borders, not just their own people. That’s a pretty enormous change by anyone’s standards.
12th century: Law and order
If you consider visiting a foreign country, one of the most important aspects you bear in mind is how safe you will be while you are there. Indeed, probably no other factor deters people from visiting a place as much as an absence of law and order. So it follows that the introduction of the systematic application of law and order marks quite a turning point in European history. This happened through the compilation of law books, the development of jurisprudence, and, in England, the development of “justices in eyre” – the forerunners of circuit judges – together with the establishment of trial by jury.
13th century: Markets
As is well known, money has existed for thousands of years. However, that doesn’t mean it has always served the same function as it does today. At the start of the 13th century not many people used money in England. The vast majority lived in the country and bartered for the things that they could not make for themselves. Lords commanded the time of their peasants and allowed them to farm a few acres in return. The only people who regularly handled silver pennies were the inhabitants of market towns – and there were only 300 of those (and some had fewer than 500 people). However, over the course of the 13th century another 1,400 markets were founded in England. European countries saw a similar quadrupling of the number of towns. Not all of these new foundations succeeded but many did. The whole of christendom shifted to a more mercantile economy as you simply cannot operate a barter system efficiently in a marketplace. By 1300, several countries had begun minting large-denomination coins in gold, and credit was available from Italian banking companies, which had branches across the continent.
14th century: Plague
The greatest disaster to befall mankind and the most important event in the history of the western world had absolutely nothing to do with technology. With roughly half the population of the country dying in the space of seven months, the mortality impact was about 200 times as great as that of the first world war. The socio-economic consequences were profound. The old feudal system was dealt a heavy blow as the paucity of survivors meant workers could charge more for their labour, and peasants could acquire assets and even set themselves up as manorial lords. Questions were raised about God’s relationship with mankind and the nature of disease – how could a benevolent deity kill so many innocent children? At the same time, people began to regard death in a new light, and the religious started to abase themselves, adopting a stance of abject humility in the eyes of God. Thus the plague not only killed people, it changed the ways people lived, as well as their expectations of death.
15th century: Columbus
The most important relationship in human history is between mankind and the land. Basically, the more land you have, the more natural resources you have. Columbus thus stands as one of the most important figures in history. With a great fanfare of his own achievement, he showed Europeans the way to vast territories of which no one had previously dreamed. No new technology empowered him: the compass was already at least three centuries old by the time he discovered Hispaniola in 1492. It was rather socio-economic pressure that drove him – together with his own desire to become a wealthy landowner. The consequences go far further than Spanish being the second-most widely spoken language in the world today (after Chinese). Until 1492 most people had believed the ancient Roman and Greek writers had reached an epitome of knowledge. However, there is no reference to the American continents in Ptolemy or Strabo. People quickly realised that, if the ancient writers could have missed two whole continents, they might have misunderstood many other things too. The crossing of the Atlantic was thus one of the two or three biggest causes for the re-evaluation of received wisdom in the last thousand years.
16th century: The decline of personal violence
The pre-industrial past was, by our standards, incredibly violent. In the middle ages, the murder rate in Oxford occasionally hit the same level as Dodge City at the height of the American gun-slinging wild west. But from 1500, the murder rates decreased rapidly, and not just in Oxford. In fact, across Europe, they more or less halved every 100 years, until they started to increase again in the late 20th century. The cause was better communication, through a massive increase in literacy and writing, allowing governments to act more regularly and with greater certainty of finding the guilty party. People started to think twice before drawing a knife in a brawl. Constables answering to the authorities pursued highwaymen and similar culprits far more rigorously than in previous centuries. As with many changes over past centuries, the development was so gradual that contemporaries did not comment on them; they also quickly took a safer society for granted. But that very thing – a safer society – is something not to be thrown away lightly.
17th century: The scientific revolution
One thing that few people fully appreciate about the witchcraft craze that swept Europe in the late 16th and early 17th centuries is that it was not just a superstition. If someone you did not like died, and you were accused of their murder by witchcraft, it would have been of no use claiming that witchcraft does not exist, or that you did not believe in it. Witchcraft was recognised as existing in law – and to a greater or lesser extent, so were many superstitions. The 17th century saw many of these replaced by scientific theories. The old idea that the sun revolved around the Earth was finally disproved by Galileo. People facing life-threatening illnesses, who in 1600 had simply prayed to God for health, now chose to see a doctor. But the most important thing is that there was a widespread confidence in science. Only a handful of people could possibly have understood books such as Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, when it was published in 1687. But by 1700 people had a confidence that the foremost scientists did understand the world, even if they themselves did not, and that it was unnecessary to resort to superstitions to explain seemingly mysterious things.
18th century: The French Revolution
There is no doubt that the French Revolution of 1789 was THE revolution for the western world. It was the first testing of the idea, nationally, that men should be equal in the eyes of the law. It forced thinkers all across Europe to reassess the ideas of human rights, political equality, and the rights of women. Although many governments were initially cautious of encouraging change, without the French Revolution, it is difficult to see how the great social reforms of the 19th century – the abolition of slavery, universal education, the rights of women to act as independent property owners, public health, and the diminution of capital punishment – would have proceeded as they did.
19th century: Communications
We think of the 20th century as undergoing a communications revolution. And for many people it has done: most of our great-grandfathers did not have a private phone in 1900 but about 40% of us had a mobile phone by 2000. But the real communications revolution lay in the 19th century – in 1900 you could send a telegram. In 1805, news of the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October) was delivered to the admiralty on 6 November. Just riding from Falmouth to London took Lieutenant Lapenotière 37 hours and 21 changes of horse. After the intercontinental telegraph cable was laid in 1872 it became possible to send a message to Australia immediately. The railways, telegraph and telephone made messaging much faster – in some cases almost instantaneous. This was just as significant as the modern communications revolution, if not more so. Governments trying to control their own countries and those overseas could now require that all important decisions be referred back to the capital; previously they had had to place trusted men in positions of responsibility all over the world – and hope for the best.
20th century: Invention of the future
There can be no doubt that technology hugely changed the ways in which we lived and died in the 20th century. However, it also masks changes that are arguably even more profound. In 1900 few people seriously considered the future. William Morris and a few socialists wrote utopian visions of the world they wanted to see, but there was little serious consideration of where we were going as a society. Today we predict almost everything: what the weather will be, what housing we will need, what our pensions will be worth, where we will dispose of our rubbish for the next 30 years and so on. The UN predicts world population levels up to the year 2300. Global warming reports are hot news. Novels about the future are 10 a penny. Newspapers and online newsfeeds are increasingly full of stories of what will happen, not what has happened. With limited resources on a limited planet, this is not a shift that is likely ever to change. In a thousand years or so, if society continues that long, the 20th century may well be viewed as the threshold when the modern world began – when humanity started to consider the future as well as the present and the past.
스웨덴의 수도 스톡홀름의 집에서 만난 안드레아스 나쿤(35)은 오전에만 일 하고 일찍 퇴근했다고 했다. 전날에는 아예 출근하지 않았다. 아들(3)이 아파서다. 아이가 웬만큼 아파도 어린이집에 보내는 한국의 맞벌이 부모와 달리 ‘스칸디 대디’(북유럽 아빠)는 아픈 아이 곁을 지킬 수 있다. “아이가 아프니까 당연히 집에 와야죠. 우리 회사도 그렇지만 스웨덴에서는 전반적으로 ‘아이가 아프다’면 받아주는 분위기거든요.”
아이가 갑자기 아플 때는 회사 담당자에게 간단히 이메일을 쓰면 된다. 1주일까지는 진단서 없이 휴가를 쓸 수 있다. 1주일 이상 아프면 진단서를 내고 휴가를 연장할 수 있다. 주 40시간 노동을 못해 삭감되는 급여는 국가가 보험으로 지급한다.
결근과 조퇴를 했지만 나쿤이 감수해야 하는 불이익은 없다. “물론 눈치를 줄 수 있죠. 스웨덴에도 그런 회사가 없진 않을 거예요. 하지만 우리 회사는 아이가 아플 때 시간을 쓰도록 보장하는 정책이 있어요. 만약 상사가 눈치를 주면, 그건 그 상사가 회사를 그만둬야 할 사유가 됩니다.”
스웨덴에서는 아이가 중심이다. 기업은 직원들의 엄마·아빠로서의 정체성을 존중한다. 공기업에서 일하는 페리에 이바르시오(40)는 “회의를 하다가도 어린이집에 맡긴 아이를 데리러간다면 양해해주는 게 스웨덴의 문화”라고 했다. 4월에 찾은 이 회사에서는 오후 4시께인데도 퇴근을 서두르는 직원들이 적지 않았다. “아침 7시에 출근해 오후 4시에 퇴근하든, 8시에 출근해 5시에 퇴근하든 8시간을 지키면 된다”고 했다.
나쿤은 전형적 스칸디 대디다. 인터뷰 중에도 아들의 장난을 받아주고 눈을 맞추는 등 ‘상호작용’이 끊이지 않았다. 능숙하게 아이를 어르고 달랬다. 나쿤은 ‘육아 내공’이 아빠휴직을 통해 생긴 것 같다고 했다.
아내가 8개월간 엄마휴직을 쓰고, 그 뒤로 6개월간 제가 휴직했어요. 내가 아이를 완전히 책임진다는 것 자체가 큰 변화였어요. 아이가 운다고 아내가 도와줄 수는 없으니까요. 그래서 아내를, 엄마로서의 여자를 더 많이 이해하게 됐죠.”
스웨덴에서는 부모가 도합 16개월(480일)까지 육아휴직을 쓸 수 있다. 이 중 60일은 반드시 아빠가 써야 한다. 아빠가 육아휴직을 하지 않으면 휴직기간은 14개월(420일)로 줄어든다. 그래서 아빠들의 휴직이 보편적이다. “비슷한 시기에 아빠휴직을 한 친구들이 있었어요. 3명이 모여 티타임도 하고, 정말 재밌었어요.” 바퀴가 크고 튼튼해 야외활동에 적합한 유모차가 북유럽에서 쓰이게 된 것 역시 이런 사정과 무관하지 않다.
스칸디 대디의 다른 ‘무기’는 휴가다. 한 해 5~6주를 쓸 수 있다. 어린이집이나 학교에 다니는 자녀를 둔 부모는 대개 휴가를 방학에 맞춘다. 이바르시오는 “지난해 2주간 자동차로 유럽 여행을 했다. 아이들은 장기간 휴가를 갈 때 가장 행복해하는 것 같다”고 했다. 한국의 일반적 휴가 기간인 1주일은 맞벌이 부모의 피로를 풀기에도 모자란 시간이다. 아이들과 애착을 쌓고 멀어진 관계를 회복하기에는 턱없이 부족하다.
이바르시오는 지난해 부장으로 승진했지만 여전히 퇴근 뒤 저녁식사를 손수 준비해 아내, 아이들과 함께 먹는다. “아이들이 커갈수록 함께할 시간이 많지 않으니까 저녁식사만은 꼭 같이 하려고 해요. 그렇지 않으면 공유할 게 없잖아요. 저녁 시간이 정말 중요하다고 생각해요.” 일주일에 두 번은 실내하키 코치로 초등학교 4학년 아들과 그 친구들을 가르친다. 간부가 된 뒤로도 아빠로서의 ‘임무’를 포기하지 않는 것이다. 한국의 ‘과장 아빠’, ‘부장 아빠’는 꿈꾸기 어려운 일이 어떻게 가능할까? “위로 올라갈수록 월급이 많아지고 일도 많아져요. 승진 뒤로는 매일 1시간 일찍 출근해 초과근로를 해요.” 그는 오전 7시부터 오후 5시까지 9시간(점심 1시간 제외) 일한다. 스웨덴에서는 노동자가 근무시간을 스스로 조정할 수 있다. 실제로 언제 출근하는지와는 무관하게 ‘9시’를 출근시간으로 간주하는 한국에 견줘 회사에서 단 한 시간도 허투루 보내지 않는다.
노동시간을 자유롭게 줄일 수 있는 권리가 엄마뿐 아니라 아빠에게 주어지는 것도 스칸디 대디가 아빠휴직 이후에도 자녀와 충분한 시간을 보내는 비결이다. 나쿤은 “아이가 어린이집에 적응할 기간이 필요했다. 휴직에서 복귀한 뒤에도 반년 정도는 85%(6.8시간)만 일했다. 얼마전까지는 90%(7.2시간)만 일하다 최근에 100% 8시간 노동을 하고 있다”고 했다.
유럽에서도 ‘일·가정 양립’의 롤모델로 꼽히는 스웨덴은 노동시간 감축 청구권 제도에서도 한발 앞서 있다. 독일이 40시간, 30시간, 20시간 등 통상 10시간 단위로 감축이 가능한 것과 달리 스웨덴은 75~100%까지 분 단위 감축이 가능하다.
“아내는 오전에 아들을 데려다주고 늦게 출근하기 때문에 오후 5~6시에 퇴근해요. 오후에 제가 아들을 데리고 와서 저녁식사를 준비하죠.” 한국이라면 부모 얼굴을 볼 수 있을까 말까 한 저녁 8시에 나쿤의 아들은 잠자리에 든다. 아빠·엄마와 저녁을 먹고, 목욕하고, 동화책까지 읽고도 초저녁이다.
스웨덴의 ‘대표 브랜드’가 된 스칸디 대디는 사회적 산물이다. 아이 키우는 시간을 보장하는 제도와 문화가 있기에 가능한 일이다. 유연한 ‘시간 문화’는 임신·출산·육아뿐만 아니라 자기계발과 노부모 부양 등 다양한 개인적 필요와 직장생활을 조화시키는 데도 도움이 된다.
지난 5월 유럽연합(EU) 조사를 보면, 스웨덴의 고용률은 79.8%로 유럽 평균(68.3%)보다 10%포인트 높아 최고치를 기록했다. 스웨덴이 유럽 국가들 중 가장 높은 고용률을 자랑하는 것 역시 일과 개인생활을 조화시키도록 보장하는 것과 무관하지 않다는 분석도 있다.