English Life and Manners in the Later Middle Ages

By A. Abram | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
SOCIAL CLASSES

CLASS distinctions were far more real and important in the Middle Ages than they are to-day, and the distance between the upper and lower classes was far greater. Although poverty debars some persons from utilizing some privileges nominally open to all, preferential treatment is not now accorded to any class, but then the Aristocracy enjoyed many advantages. Great deference was paid to them by those who were lower in the social scale, and men sued to them for their favour. They possessed much political influence both in Parliament and outside it. We learn from the Paston Letters, that in 1472, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk decided who should be Knights of the Shire for those counties, and that it was impossible for any one else to be elected. They were so powerful that very often their misdeeds went unpunished, because they could not be brought to justice. If a poor man break his oath, says the poet Hoccleve, he is sent to prison, but no one dares openly to accuse a rich man, and great folks take the law into their own hands. The Liber Niger, which contains ordinances for the regulation of Edward IV's household, decrees that any one under the rank of a baron swearing by God's body shall have no wine at meals, but, appar-

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English Life and Manners in the Later Middle Ages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xi
  • List of Illustrations xiii
  • Abbreviations Used in The References xv
  • Chapter I Social Classes 1
  • Chapter II Life Amongst the Aristocracy 9
  • Chapter III Characteristics of Town Life 18
  • Chapter IV The Position of Women 31
  • Chapter V The Church and the Nation 46
  • Chapter VI Some Aspects of Monastic Life 62
  • Chapter VII Business Life 80
  • Chapter VIII The Unemployed 95
  • Chapter IX Aliens in England 103
  • Chapter X Family Life 113
  • Chapter XI "Mete and Drinke" 134
  • Chapter XII The Mirror of Fashion 152
  • Chapter XIII Houses 173
  • Chapter XIV Public Health 190
  • Chapter XV Education 204
  • Chapter XVI Amusements 230
  • Chapter XVII Travelling 248
  • Chapter XVIII National Character 260
  • Appendix Authorities 284
  • Index 337
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