The Middle Sort of People in Provincial England, 1600-1750
Exploring the origins of 'middle-class' status in the English provinces during a formative period of social and economic change, this book provides the first comparative study of the nature of social identity in early modern provincial England. It questions definitions of a 'middling' group, united by shared patterns of consumption and display, and examines the bases for such identity in three detailed case studies of the 'middle sort' in East Anglia, Lancashire, and Dorset. Dr.French identifies how the 'middling' described their status, and examines this through their social position in parish life and government, and through their material possessions.Instead of a coherent, unified 'middle sort of people' this book reveals division between self-proclaimed parish rulers (the 'chief inhabitants') and a wider body of modestly prosperous householders, who nevertheless shared social perspectives bounded within their localities. By the eighteenth century, many of these 'chief inhabitants' were trying to break out of their parish pecking orders - not by associating with a wider 'middle class', but by modifying ideas of gentility to suit theircircumstances (and pockets).French concludes as a result, that while the presence of a distinct 'middling' stratum is apparent, the social identity of the people remained fragmented - restricted by parochial society on the one hand, and overshadowed by the prospect of gentility on the other. He offers new interpretation and insights into the composition and scale of the society in early modern England.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Other editions - View all
accounts acres agrarian Ambrose appears assessments authority Barcroft Book borough Braintree burgesses capital cent century chairs Chapter chief inhabitants churchwardens Civility cloth clothier Colchester common compared consumption contained Court cultural described distinction Dorset Earls Colne economic eighteenth century England English Essex Essex and Suffolk evidence example farms gentility gentlemen greater Hearth Tax HHlds History household Ibid identified identity illustrates included indicate individuals inventories John Lancashire land larger later less levels lived London Lyme Regis material mean median middle sort noted officers overseers parish particularly patterns period political poor population position possessed Preston production prosperous Quarter Sessions ranks ratepayers rates recorded reflect region relatively remained represented respect rural sample served seventeenth century Sherborne significant social society status Sudbury Suffolk suggests Table Thomas town trade urban vestry wealth worth