HIST 251 - Lecture 2 - "The Tree of Commonwealth": The Social Order in the Sixteenth Century
Lecture 2 - "The Tree of Commonwealth": The Social Order in the Sixteenth Century
Professor Wrightson provides a broad sketch of the social order of early modern England, focusing on the hierarchical language of "estates" and "degrees" and the more communitarian ideal of the "commonwealth" by which society was organized. The differences between the social structure in rural and urban areas are addressed and the subordinate roles of women and the young are also outlined. Professor Wrightson discusses the differences between members of peerage, the gentry, and the commonalty and the social positions of servants, yeoman, husbandmen, and apprentices are explained. The mechanisms by which the social order was preserved, such as prescriptive literature and ecclesiastical injunctions, are also considered. Professor Wrightson concludes that, while in the theory the social order was rigidly hierarchical and rooted in relationships of authority and subordination, in practice there was a great more flexibility and ambiguity within every day interpersonal social relationships.
Wrightson, English Society, chapter 1