A Polarizing Society, 1560-1640 
A Polarizing Society, 1560-1640
by Yale / Keith Wrightson
Video Lecture 13 of 25
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Date Added: June 15, 2011

Lecture Description

Professor Wrightson reviews the consequences of the economic and population changes discussed in the last lecture. While economic shifts allowed some members of English society, especially members of the gentry and the land-holding classes, to increase their wealth, they also (coupled with an expanding population and price inflation) resulted in the growth of poverty and vagrancy. Professor Wrightson discusses the relative wealth and economic pressures faced by various segments of the early modern population (providing specific examples) and suggests that, while society was becoming increasingly polarized between the poor and the wealthy, there was also a third group, the 'middling sort,' who were expanding in numbers and influence. Professor Wrightson concludes by touching on the rising levels of poverty in the period and government responses to it (culminating in the passage of the Poor Laws), as well as very real human element in these larger social and economic processes.

Reading assignment:
Slack, Poverty and Policy in Tudor and Stuart England, chapters 3-5

Course Index

Course Description

This course is intended to provide an up-to-date introduction to the development of English society between the late fifteenth and the early eighteenth centuries. Particular issues addressed in the lectures will include: the changing social structure; households; local communities; gender roles; economic development; urbanization; religious change from the Reformation to the Act of Toleration; the Tudor and Stuart monarchies; rebellion, popular protest and civil war; witchcraft; education, literacy and print culture; crime and the law; poverty and social welfare; the changing structures and dynamics of political participation and the emergence of parliamentary government.

Course Structure:
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Fall 2009.

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