Cranbrook, Kent, and its neighbourhood area, c. 1570-1670
This thesis contributes to the discipline of historical research through the detailed local study and analysis of micro-economic developments and social trends within the 'market town' of Cranbrook, Kent and its neighbouring parishes. In particular this study examines the symbiotic relationship between the market town as a nodal point for industry and commerce within the context of the local economy and social structure of its rural hinterland. The nature and incidence of demographic growth within Cranbrook's neighbourhood during local periods of epidemic disease and economic dislocation, provide a context in which to examine the extent to which the Wealden wood pasture agrarian regime could absorb and sustain demographic growth within individual local economies. Social relations within Cranbrook, show that the town was not isolated from its rural hinterland. The inhabitants of the town and the countryside interacted within a local economy based upon textile manufacture and farming, which effectively defined the complex social hierarchy of the 'neighbourhood'. Kinship-networks among longstanding resident families and their comparative status, wealth and influence within individual parishes, show the importance of familial relationships to business success and social status within the community. Parish office holding among Cranbrook's 'chief inhabitants' are explored within the concepts of religious ideology and social control in early modem England. Cranbrook society is examined within the context of developing religious attitudes and puritan ideas, which took hold and flourished in this period. The thesis also investigates the slow decline of the broadcloth industry in the region and contributes to the proto-industrialization debate. The effect of economic recession in broadcloth manufacture is examined against the decline of the neighbourhood population, the contraction in market demand for Wealden broadcloth and increased poverty.