14 Ocak 2011 Cuma

Tudor England

Tudor England was an agricultural society. Most of the population lived in small villages and made their living from farming. Having said that towns grew larger and more important. During the 16th century trade and industry grew rapidly and England became a more and more commercial country. Mining of coal, tin and lead flourished. So did the iron industry. During this period England became richer and richer.

However there were winners and losers in Tudor times. Upper class and middle class Tudors saw a big rise in their standard of living. As England grew more and more prosperous the homes of the well off became more and more comfortable. However the lowest section of society, the wage labourers, became worse off. In the 14th century a large part of the population died of plague. As a result there was a shortage of labour so wages went up. However in the 16th century the population recovered so real earnings fell.

In the 15th century the population of England may have been around 2 1/2 million. By 1525 it had risen to around 3 million and by 1600 it was about 4 million.

During the 16th century there was inflation, especially in the mid-century, and prices rose steeply. Wages rose too but less than prices so real earnings fell. They reached their lowest point in 1597. (The years 1594-97 were ones of famine. In Cumbria, the poorest and most isolated part of England, people starved to death).


Tudor society was divided into four broad groups. At the top were the nobility who owned huge amounts of land. Below them were the gentry and rich merchants. Gentlemen owned large amounts of land and they were usually educated and had a family coat of arms. Most important gentlemen never did any manual work, that was beneath their dignity. Below the gentry were yeomen and craftsmen. Yeomen owned their own land. They could be as wealthy as gentlemen but they worked alongside their men. Yeomen and craftsmen were often able to read and write. Below the yeomen were the tenant farmers who leased their land from the rich. There were also wage labourers. They were often illiterate and very poor.

In the 16th century about 50% of the population lived at subsistence level. In other words they had just enough food, clothes and shelter to survive. For them life was very hard.

However it was possible to move from one class to another. With hard work and luck a husbandman could become a yeoman. A yeoman could buy a coat of arms and become gentlemen. It was possible for an ambitious young man to rise in the world.

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