Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2001-10 > 1004497182

From: Arthur Murata <>
Subject: Re: Irritating Posts
Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 18:59:42 -0800 (PST)
In-Reply-To: <008201c1619e$ba98fd00$f5b501d5@system1>

I stand corrected and embarrassed, having shot my mouth off
about something for which I really have no more than
occasional anecdotal information. My apologies. Sincerely,

--- Chris Dickinson <> wrote:
> Bronwen Edwards writes:
> >Oh come now! Of course it was rigid - by the standards
> of
> today certainly. One had a "station" in life from which
> they were strongly discouraged (or prevented) behaving as
> if they were of a different station.
> The reference was, as I understood it, to the nineteenth
> century.
> Then, class was ultimately based on money. Make enough of
> it, buy
> a country estate, get a peerage - and your family's
> social rank
> was transformed. Social movement happened at all levels.
> There
> were very few restrictions.
> Of course, because the rigidity was familiar but also
> resented,
> it became the
> basis for much folklore about "trading places" (as in
> "The
> Prince and the Pauper" and countless other examples).
> Are there countless other examples? There is far more in
> folklore
> about the peasant boy or peasant girl making good -
> that's simply
> the 'who wants to be a millionaire' type of wishful
> thinking,
> nothing to do with class.
> >I recall my Cambridge-educated English graduate adviser
> in
> anthropology delivering a lecture on the importance of
> one's school tie and of being careful not to wear a tie
> that could be confused with another school.
> Oh well, as an Oxford-educated graduate in History, may I
> remind
> you that the public school system is really a
> mid-nineteenth
> century invention (yes, I know Eton/Harrow/Rugby predate
> this!).
> From the foundation of Cheltenham College (the school of
> 'IF')
> onwards, there was a massive increase in such education
> for the
> middle classes and for the running of the British Empire.
> The
> real relevance of such schools is that, by standardising
> accent
> and providing boarding places, they reinforced the new
> class
> system of the Industrial Revolution and unified the upper
> and
> middle classes across the nation. There was much more
> evidence of
> class division in 1900 than there had been in 1800.
> >And that was in the 20th century - the medieval period
> was
> unquestionably
> more rigid with its church sanctions and brutality from
> those with power over you (by being of a higher station).
> Church sanctions? Brutality? What on earth do you mean?
> Never assume that because something existed in one
> century it
> must have existed, or been worse, in an earlier one.
> However, I would agree that society was more rigid in the
> medieval period - as I commented above, the reference in
> the
> thread was, as I understood it, to the nineteenth
> century.
> That said, English society has never been as stratified
> or as
> rigid as some seem to think (I'm not commenting on
> Scottish,
> Welsh or Irish - simply because I don't know enough about
> their
> local social structures). There was a huge amount of
> documented
> social movement in Early Modern England, a thriving
> middle class,
> and growing urban centres to provide a social melting
> pot. This
> sort of social environment can probably be traced back to
> the
> mid-fourteenth century.
> Earlier than that, because of the lack of documentation,
> it's
> difficult to tell. There seem to be no reasons why the
> three
> standard routes of social movement couldn't have existed
> then -
> men gaining gaining promotion through war, women through
> marriage, and generally up-and-down through the
> acquisition or
> loss of wealth. Nor it is easy to assess the impact that
> monastic
> communities had on social mobility.
> >History may have recorded individuals from medieval
> England
> who were more liberal in their thinking and behavior, but
> the system was certainly rigid. Best, Bronwen Edwards
> Of course, there are really two separate issues to this.
> There is
> the question of whether society was stratified and the
> question
> of whether people could move between the strata. One of
> the
> problems in discussing such issues over a 'medieval'
> period is
> that the timescale is huge and the strata change.
> Bear in mind that the medieval genealogist has a much
> more
> limited window onto the past than the medieval historian.
> The
> only genealogies that have survived are of families that
> have
> been successful or of families at the top that have been
> noticeably unsuccessful, a tiny percentage of the general
> population. These pedigrees tell us very little about
> social
> movement - indeed quite the reverse. Marriages that don't
> add
> assets or status to the clan won't be included, or if
> they are,
> the descendant lines disappear. Wives who aren't
> heiresses may be
> no more than a name, if that. The only certainties in
> discussing
> this are presumptions.
> Chris

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