In the late 15th Century, England was relatively prosperous:
- The population was beginning to recover from the Black Death.
- By 1500, there were 2.25 million people living in England and Wales.
- The vast majority of the people worked on the land.
- Shortage of labour, meant that English peasants were in a strong position.
The use of land in the late 15th Century:
- The land was used by arable farming (ploughing and growing crops) or pasturage farming (raising livestock).
- Enclosure (land enclosed with fences or hedges) was a result of the increasing numbers of landlords turning to sheep farming, which was seen as an increasing problem by contemporaries.
- Wool was the main raw material for the doth industry, which was provided for by sheeps.
- Increasinging wool and cloth was exported to the continent.
- London was the greatest city in the kingdom, but there were other important cities, such as Norwich, York and Bristol.
Classes of men
Classes of men:
- Peasant were at the bottom of the class system, who made up 80% of the population.
- Landowners were above them.
- Yemoen were farrmers who owned their own land.
- Then it was Gentlemen who were lords of the manor, and owned largen estates.
- The nobility were made up of the aristocracy and consisted of Earls and Dukes. They held estates in several shires.
- The Great Chain of Being
The Nature of the Monarchy
The country was governed by a hereditary monarchy, in theory. Despire the usurpers, Richard III, Edward IV and Henry VII, the monarchy remained strong because:
- Mostly everyone believed that the King was appointed by God to rule and protect his people.
- The King was meant to promote justice and to rule with other great land owners.
- As a result of the hierarchy was ordained by God, it was considered a great sin for people to rise up against their rulers.
However, Kings were not absolute:
- The King shared power with the nobility and the Church, and he ruled within the law.
- Parliament was called occasionally by the monarch.
- Parliament's main job was to recognise the existence of a new king, and to raise taxes for warfare, or the country's defence.
- Parliament also became the institution that the monarch could turn to for advice in times of crisis.
The 15th Century was an age of faith:
- The English Church was Catholic and helped to hold the country together in troubled times.
- Peace was kept due to the Church providing an ideology.
- The Church was episcopial (run by bishops).
- The most important churchmen were the archbishops of Canterbury and York.
- All the bishops and archbishops were appointed by the Pope in Rome.
- The Church in England, technically owed allegiance to the Pope.
The Church and Society:
- Church was at the centre of social life.
- There were many saint days and holy days.
- The Church taught obedience and deference.
- Most people were taught to know their place in society and to not change it.
- Therefore Rebellion against authority was a great sin.
Society was split into 4 main blocks:
- 1) Gentlemen
- 2) Citizens
- 3) Yeomen
- 4) Cottagers/Labourers
Gentlemen and Citizens (Social Structure)
Gentlemen were subdivided into: 'Nobilitas Major' and 'Nobilitas Minor.'
- 'Nobilitas Major'
- These were made up of parliamentary peerages, landed elite.
- They were summoned to attend Parliament and stay at home if climate was not good at court. E.g. during religious change.
- 'Nobilitas Minor'
- These were made up of Knights and Esquiries.
- They acted as local Justices of the Peace.
- Citizens lived in towns and cities.
- They gained certain privileges, due to social standing.
Yeomen and Cottagers and Laborers (Social Structur
- Yeomen were farmers who had economic influences.
- They acted as:
- Local baliffs
- Church wardens
- Constables, assisting in maintaining order.
Cottagers and Labourers:
- Cottagers and labourers were peasants.
- They lived in villages.
- If they wanted to move or get married, they had to ask permission from their local Lord.
Maintenance of Social Structure
Social Structure was maintained by:
- Social and economic factors.
- Government Authoity factors which were formal and informal.
- Duty and Deferece.
- The Great Chain of Being.
The Great Chain of Beign:
- God was at the top.
- Then it was the Angel.
- The King was below them.
- Noblemen came next
- Then came Gentlemen.
- Peasants came next.
- Then a dog and worm.
The main divide was between the Gentry and Commoners:
- Gentry were rich enough to not work and be able to display standards of living expected of the gentry.
- Whereas commoners had no political voice.
- Commoners gained the Government's attention by riot and rebellion.
- They were viewed as inferior, irrational, stupid and fickle.
- Authorities could not see the difference between riot and rebellion
- They also did not realise that not everybody had political representation.