An Anglican Aristocracy: The Moral Economy of the Landed Estate in Carmarthenshire, 1832-1895

An Anglican Aristocracy: The Moral Economy of the Landed Estate in Carmarthenshire, 1832-1895

An Anglican Aristocracy: The Moral Economy of the Landed Estate in Carmarthenshire, 1832-1895

An Anglican Aristocracy: The Moral Economy of the Landed Estate in Carmarthenshire, 1832-1895

Synopsis

This account of nineteenth-century Carmarthenshire emphasizes the social and political dominance of the Anglican and landowning nobility and gentry for much of the period. Matthew Cragoe explores the nature and public roles of a governing elite, arguing that their influence was not simply a function of their members' wealth or their control of local government and the administration of the law, but had a vital ideological dimension in the aristocracy's paternalistic ethic, which found powerful and practical expression in the 'moral economy' of the landed estate.

Excerpt

The Carmarthenshire aristocracy were a propertied élite: their control of society stemmed from their ownership of land. Although the wealth they derived from their property set them apart from the rest of society, it also bound them inseparably to it: the paternalistic ethos fostered and enforced within the aristocracy made them responsible, very specifically, for the welfare of the individuals and communities associated with their land. How this obligation was fulfilled in practical terms was subject to a variety of considerations, such as the wealth of the individual proprietor, the extent of his estates, and the quality of the land he owned. Above all, however, it was influenced by location. in a parish where a landowner owned a large amount of property, he would be expected to contribute a great deal to local society, and in return, to exercise considerable influence within the community. in areas where there was no predominant landowner, aristocratic influence was clearly a less important factor. the practical impact of aristocratic influence in general, and paternalism in particular, depended ultimately upon the landholding configuration of any given parish, and was not a constant factor throughout the countryside.

Any study of the aristocracy as a governing élite must, therefore, begin with a consideration of the aristocracy as landowners. Consequently, this chapter is built around an analysis of two major sources, the Return of the Owners of Land, published in 1874, and the numerous tithe surveys carried out in the county between 1836 and 1845. the one provides an accurate picture of the hierarchy of individual owners in the county, whilst the latter allows the reconstruction, in great detail, of landholding patterns at parish level. Since the aim of the chapter is to locate the aristocracy as much within the sociological as the geographical parameters of the county and the parish, the opportunity is also taken to examine the homogeneity of the governing class.

The Aristocracy and the Land

In Carmarthenshire the pattern of land distribution was somewhat wider than that found elsewhere in Wales. Taking the Principality as a whole . . .

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