The changing structure of socitety

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  • Created on: 22-04-20 12:08
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  • The Changing Structure of Society
    • The nobility's place in the political life of the country
      • The political class made up no more than 5% of the population.
      • Economic wealth, mainly based on land ownership, was the base of the political classes influence.
        • Gave them social and political power.
          • They controlled 70% of the land, and used that to control the whole country.
      • The majority of the population were excluded from political power..
        • Ownership of land gave people access to political power.
      • At the top of the political structure was the king, followed by the nobility and the gentry.
        • Nobility was a tiny part of the political elite.
          • In 1633, the English nobility numbered only 122.
    • The power of the nobility
      • Nobility got their power based on that fact they owned the majority of the land.
        • Influence was thus linked to food prices and rent rates.
        • As large land owners, they generally benefitted from the long period of inflation.
          • Increased food prices and rent, so more money goes to the nobility.
      • By 1688 the power of some of the nobility and upper gentry was beginning to extend from landholding.
        • Began to include trade, finance, rent and manufacturing
        • They establish town houses or London residences as well as their country seats.
      • It was not always the case that the nobility had large annual incomes.
        • The fortunes of several noble families had declined over time.
          • Some had an annual income of as little as £200 a year.
      • Under the Tudors, the nobility had enjoyed substancial political power, unchallenged by other classes.
        • However, in 1625-88 their power gradually decreased.
          • For example:
            • Noble economic power was being challenged by the new commercial and merchant class in London and provincial towns.
            • Most the nobility sided with the King during the civil war.
              • Thus, many lost money and land which were taken by the republic.
            • The republicans abloshed the House of Lords in 1649, and it was only revived with the Convention Parliament of 1660.
    • The changing gentry class
      • The gentry were a significant group within the political elite.
        • Most of the gentry were substancial landowners, but there were also newer groups.
          • Eg. Lawyers, docters, clergy, musicians, architects and merchants.
          • These new groups didn't reply on land for income.
          • Over time these professionals used their aquired wealth to purchase land for their families.
            • Wanted to become part of the landed gentry.
      • Between 1625-88 the gentry became the largest social group attending universities and the Inns of Court where they studied law.
        • As they became more educated, especially in farming techiniques, they began to farm themselves.
          • They worked to improve the quality of their land.
            • Mainly through drainage and land reclamation.
            • They were keen to maximise their profits from the land.
              • Wanted to use their increased income for investment in industried and trading concerns.
      • Under the Stuarts, the gentry class as a whole enhanced their social standing, personal wealth and education levels.
        • This increased their political confidence.
          • Reflected in the fact that a number of parliament members, eg Hampden, Pym and Cromwell, were all from the gentry.


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