In early modern Europe, as in developing countries today, much of the population had to struggle to survive. Estimates for many parts of pre-industrial Europe, as for several countries in the so-called Third World, suggest that the majority of the inhabitants owned so little property that their livelihood was highly insecure. Basically, all those who lived by the work of their hands were at risk, and the reasons for their vulnerability were manifold. Economic cycles and seasonal fluctuations jeopardized the livelihood of the rural and urban masses. Warfare, taxation, and other decisions by the ruling elites sometimes had far-reaching direct and indirect repercussions on the lives of the poor. This is also true of natural factors, both catastrophes and the usual weather fluctuations, which were a major factor affecting harvest yields. Equal in importance were the risks and uncertainties inherent in life and family cycles: disease, old age, widowhood, or having many young children.