4 - English society at the end of the 15th century

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  • English Society at the end of the 15th Century
    • The Structure of Society
      • Wasn't as hierarchical as France or Spain, but was layered
        • Society saw a growth in a professional + mercantile group
          • Remnants of the feudal system were still visible
            • Economic pressures + Black Death increased social mobility which scared conservative elites
              • They pass 'sumptuary laws' which attempted to regulate how people dressed according to their status - FAILED
      • Nobility
        • Consisted of only 50-60 men
          • Families died out + were replaced by those who had won the King's favour
            • These families were relied on to maintain order in localities
        • Henry VII distrusted the nobility and so was reluctant to create new peerage titles
          • He trusted military officials like Earl of Oxford + Lord Daubeney
            • Didn't trust Northumberland even though he betrayed Richard III for him
        • He controlled the nobility through bonds and recognisances
        • ******* feudalism & Retaining
          • The key to nobles' power
          • Wealthy magnates recruited knights + gentlemen to serve them as administrators, but they could be used for unlawful influence
            • Henry made legislation against retaining
              • 1486 - nobles were made to take an oath against illegally retaining
              • 1487 - law against retaining was established
              • 1504 Act reinforced the law - licenses for retaining could be sought
      • Gentry
        • Often these were great landowners
          • Many sought knighthoods to confirm their status
            • 1490 - 500 knights
            • It was assumed that those with this status would assist in the care of their locality
        • Nobles + Elites owned 15-20% of the country's land
        • Esquires + 'meer gentry' were more numerous
          • Esquires - eldest sons of knights, younger sons of barons etc
      • Churchmen
        • Hugely important spiritually and as a landowner
        • Lower churchmen were rewarded for helping the people spiritually
        • Bishops + abbots of larger religious houses sat in the House of \lords + had political roles
        • Henry VII appointed bishops as men with legal training
          • John Morton + Richard Fox
      • Commoners
        • Top of the commoners = 'middling sort' (rich merchants and craftsmen)
          • In the countryside the 'middling sort' were yeomen farmers
            • Black Death had caused a drop in land values and therefore an emergence of this group
            • Known as 'peasant aristocracy'
        • Educated professionals - lawyers who had considerable influence
        • Shopkeepers and skilled tradesmen were lower down but still respectable
          • Dominated town councils + played key roles in guilds
        • Husbandmen were below yeomen - were employed by yeomen  or gentry
        • 'Peasants' = yeomen and husbandmen
        • Labourers were dependent on the income of their labour
          • Though grazing rights meant this could be added on to
    • Regional Divisions
      • England could be cut in two to show divisions
        • South + East of the line was were mixed farming prevaded
        • In the North + West pastoral farming dominated
      • Londoners tended to look down on northerners for their savagery
      • Justice was increasingly administered at county level
        • Areas of magnate influence often cut across county boundaries


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