societal groups in late 15th century


Chapter 4: English society at the end of the 15th century : The structure of society, societal groups

English society had changed little from the from the society which existed under the high point of the feudal system.

However, society also wittnessed the growth of professional and mercantile bourgeoise (middle class resisdents of towns and cities) who had become incresingly important in London and the major cities such as Norwich and Bristol. Economic pressures since the Black death 1348-49 had increased social mobility and created alarm in the more conservative upper class embers who tried unsuccessfully to enforce sumptry laws (laws that attempted to regulate how individuals should dress based on social status).

4.1: Nobility

  • Still dominated landownership.
  • Peerage (nobility) comprised of no more than 50 or 60 men.
  • Crown often relied on peerage families for the maintenence of order in the countryside.
  • Henry VII was reluctant to create new peerage titles as he was very distrustful of the nobility as a class.
  • Only trusted Lancastrian military commanders such as the Earl of Oxford and Lord Daubeny had much political influence under Henry VII.
  • Although he didn't really trust the Earl of Northumberland, Henry relied on him to control the northeast of England.
  • Henry mainly controlled nobility through bonds and recognizances.
  • Key to the noble's power was ******* feudalism (when nobles recruited knights and gentlemen for a military, political, legal, or domestic service in return for money, office, and/or influence. The gentry began to think of themselves as the men of their lord rather than of the king; individually they are known as the "retainers")
  • Henry feared that theses noblemen could use their retained men to bring unlawful action against the crown so he passed legislation which limited the military power of the


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