This book gives voice, in unusual depth and immediacy, to ordinary villagers and landlords (Junkers) in the Prussian-German countryside, from the late Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. The trials and fortunes of everyday life come into view - in the family, the workplace, in the private lives of both men and women, in courtroom and jailhouse, and under the gaze of the rising Prussian monarchy's officials and army officers. What emerges is a many-dimensioned, long-term study of a rural society, inviting comparisons on a world-historical level. The book also puts to a test the possibilities of empirical historical knowledge at the microhistorical or 'grass-roots' level. But it also reconceptualizes, on the scale of Prussian-German and European history, the rise of agrarian capitalism, challenging views widespread in the economic history literature on the common people's working standards, and including massive documentation on women's condition, rights and social roles.