Worth, age, and social status in early modern England

Shepard, A. and Spicksley, J. (2011) Worth, age, and social status in early modern England. Economic History Review, 64(2), pp. 493-530. (doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0289.2010.00533.x)

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Abstract

This article introduces a new source for assessing the distribution of wealth in early modern England derived from witness depositions taken by the church courts. It discusses the accuracy of statements of ‘worth’ provided by thousands of witnesses between the mid-sixteenth and later seventeenth centuries, and uses the monetary estimates of worth in goods that the majority of deponents supplied to assess the changing distribution of personal wealth. We argue that this data supports recent claims that the pre-industrial English economy experienced significant levels of economic growth, while showing that its benefits were increasingly unevenly distributed between different social groups. In particular, the century after 1550 witnessed spectacular increases in yeoman worth that outstripped inflation by a factor of 10. The relative wealth of yeomen was also underpinned by its more secure distribution over the life cycle which further compounded the differences between them and other social groups.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Shepard, Professor Alex
Authors: Shepard, A., and Spicksley, J.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:Economic History Review
Publisher:Wiley
ISSN:0013-0117
ISSN (Online):1468-0289
Published Online:23 September 2010
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2010 Wiley
First Published:First published in Economic History Review
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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