Social Hierarchy- 18th Century

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International Comparisons


  • Little evidence of movement
  • 18th Century- only 229 peerage creations- only 23 did not have blood or mariage connections
  • Compares to abroad- in France money was key to movement to elite and the French embraced commerical activity as oppsoed to UK elite who saw it as marker of middling sort

Michael Roberts:

  • Swedish aristocracy (alongside France) also fluid
  • 1719-1792 725 individuals granted peerages


Normal McCord:

  • Canon says elite is those with peerages 
  • however the generally accepted definition of the elite is the landed class more generally
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Fluid (part 1)

Toqueville (contemporary):

  • Reason elite survived was because of its fluidity

Perkin (19th century):

  • Vast amounts of money in bourgeoisie attractive to impoverished landed elite

Richard Wilson:

  • Clear interest to invest in land because of unstable nature of trade for middling sort
  • Essex 1/2 19th Century landowners emerged in 18th Century
  • High rate of land turnover 
  • 31 estates in Glamorganshire 1750 only 10 still owened by same family 50 years later
  • 1/5 of those who purchased country houses members of parish gentry- most of them made their money through professions or business
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Fluid (part 2)


  • Elite an unstable group who experienced high amount of land turnover

David and Elieen Spring:

  • Turnover rate of 30%
  • Hertfordshire 34% of purchasers businessmen
  • Criticises Stones' choice of counties 
  • Northumberland too sleepy
  • Criticises Halliday's use of Durham- too far North to be an investment for a wealthy london businessman so not representative
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Not fluid (part 1)


  • Few childre married beneath them and the press it recieved is proof of novelty
  • Importance of land- land only sold in dire times- this limited sale


  • Wealthy businessmen did not desire country estate
  • Only 30% top tier businessmen eldest sons abandoned profession for country estate


  • Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire + Northumberland
  • Those who moved from middling sort to elite usually professionals not businessmen
  • They were culturally near the elite- different to businessmen
  • Only 40 merhcant families established themselves as elite


  • Vacant estates absorbed by larger estates
  • 46 incomers, 56 outgoers- more out than in
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