By Alexandra Shepard
Accounting for Oneself is an enormous new research of the social order in early sleek England, as seen and articulated from the ground up. attractive with how humans from around the social spectrum put themselves in the social order, it items jointly the language of self-description deployed by means of over 13,500 witnesses in English courts while answering questions designed to evaluate their creditworthiness. Spanning the interval among 1550 and 1728, and with a wide geographical assurance, this research explores how women and men accounted for his or her 'worth' and defined what they did for a dwelling at differing issues within the life-cycle. A corrective to top-down, male-centric bills of the social order penned by means of elite observers, the viewpoint from lower than testifies to an complex hierarchy according to refined types of social reckoning that have been articulated in the course of the social scale. A tradition of appraisal used to be critical to the aggressive procedures wherein humans judged their very own and others' social positions. for almost all it was once now not land that was once the yardstick of prestige yet portable property-the items and chattels in people's ownership starting from farm animals to linens, instruments to buying and selling items, tables to tubs, outfits to cushions. Such goods have been repositories of wealth and the safety for the credits on which the majority of early glossy trade depended.
Accounting for Oneself additionally sheds new gentle on women's courting to estate, on gendered divisions of labour, and on early sleek understandings of labor which have been associated as a lot to having as to getting a residing. The view from less than was once no longer unchanging, yet bears witness to the profound influence of widening social inequality that unfolded a chasm among the center ranks and the labouring bad among the mid-sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries. hence, not just used to be the social hierarchy distorted past acceptance, from the later-seventeenth century there has been additionally a gentle but primary transforming of the factors informing the calculus of esteem.
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Extra info for Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status, and the Social Order in Early Modern England
Younger women were more heavily represented than younger men, whereas men were disproportionately present among witnesses aged 60 and above. These slight imbalances were a function of the kinds of disputes brought before the church courts. 54 Owing to the growing dominance of the London subset over time, younger women were even more disproportionately represented from the later seventeenth century. Higher proportions of younger witnesses were also more generally a feature of the urban populations represented in the data set.
The opening chapter of the first part of the book begins by situating enquiries about witnesses’ worth within a broader context of social evaluation in order to show their links to a pervasive culture of appraisal. The principal ways in which witnesses responded to the question of their worth, ranging from cash estimates of net moveable estate and expressions of relative poverty to direct refusals to answer the question or professions of ignorance, are outlined. The varying incidence of these different types of response is charted according to gender, social status, age, and over time, and the impact of marital status on women’s entitlement to moveable property is reappraised, not least in relation to wives’ widely acknow ledged role as ‘savers’ (if not ‘getters’) of household assets.
50 Nonetheless, metropolitan residents made up over half of the data set from the late seventeenth century and over two-thirds by the early eighteenth century. 51 The strong presence of urban residents in the data set is a consequence of the location of the most active church courts in cathedral cities, since the density of causes decreased as the distance of potential litigants from the courts increased. Although the data set is not entirely representative of either the regional or the urban/rural balance of population across England, it contains sufficient numbers from a variety of places to take regional variation into account and to afford a variety of comparisons particularly for the period between the 1570s and the 1680s.