By Alexandra Shepard
Accounting for Oneself is a huge new research of the social order in early smooth England, as seen and articulated from the ground up. attractive with how humans from around the social spectrum positioned 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 vast 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 way of elite observers, the viewpoint from less than testifies to an problematic hierarchy in line with subtle types of social reckoning that have been articulated through the social scale. A tradition of appraisal used to be significant to the aggressive procedures wherein humans judged their very own and others' social positions. for almost all it was once now not land that used to be the yardstick of prestige yet portable property-the items and chattels in people's ownership starting from cattle 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 alternate depended.
Accounting for Oneself additionally sheds new mild on women's courting to estate, on gendered divisions of labour, and on early glossy 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. for that reason, not just used to be the social hierarchy distorted past reputation, from the later-seventeenth century there has been additionally a gentle but basic remodeling of the factors informing the calculus of esteem.
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Additional resources for Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status, and the Social Order in Early Modern England
39 This can be demonstrated most readily in jurisdictions where complete cause papers survive (including the lists of interrogatories as well as the allegations to which witnesses were required to respond, alongside their actual depositions). In cause files from the diocese of Chester, for example, the first instance of the question of witnesses’ worth did not occur until 1591, after which it rapidly became routine, appearing in over half of all causes for which interrogatories were filed between 1600 and 1641.
Witnesses’ responses to the questions of their worth and how they maintained themselves do not provide a single, alternative vision of English society imagined as an organic whole to counterpoise the formal schemes composed by gentle men observers with which we began. Rather, they offer a novel perspective on the coordinates of social orientation whereby people asserted and negotiated social position and through which they related to others. 69 This was not the landed wealth that provided the bedrock for gentry status and the gateway to political participation, and on which the historiography 67 In these cases ‘valet £10’ and ‘nil valet’.
The terms with which people placed and identified themselves can be further explored and contextualized using the information recorded in the biographical preamble that preceded most depositions. 45 Further incidental details can also be recovered from witnesses’ responses to interrogatories concerning, for example, landholding activities, or whether they were owed money by, were in debt to, or were employed by any of the parties in a cause. At the core of this book is a data set of 13,686 witness statements in response to the question of their worth between 1550 and 1728.
Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status, and the Social Order in Early Modern England by Alexandra Shepard