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Title: Local economies and material culture : trends on early modern Berkshire, 1650-1750
Author: Wooders, Jameson D.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2716 5649
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis investigates how far the 'middling sort' of people in early modem England expressed a collective identity through material culture. It assumes that material culture (buildings, household furnishings, domesticated crops and animals) is an active agent in the expression of social identities. This study also draws on concepts in the early modem historiography closely associated with the 'middling sort', such as the 'Great Rebuilding', the 'Industrious Revolution' and the 'Consumer Revolution'. Using sub-regions within the historic county of Berkshire as case-studies, this thesis emphasizes diversity in local economies and material culture. In particular, by utilising probate inventories to investigate different types and scales of household production, the Berkshire data refute de Vries' model of an 'Industrious Revolution', showing instead increased material enrichment associated with diversification of production in south-eastern Berkshire, and impoverishment associated with a more limited range of activities in the south-west. House size (as revealed by hearth taxation records in addition to inventories) also varied in the different localities, indicating that the 'Great Rebuilding' too was not uniform across the county. The Berkshire evidence corresponds closely with Overton and his colleagues' conclusions from Cornwall and Kent, but unlike their county-wide studies, the more localized approach adopted here shows that the wealthiest area of early modem Berkshire was not that which also adopted new consumption goods most readily. The variable uptake of new items hardly suggests a 'Consumer Revolution', and no assemblages of new objects were found by which 'middling' households expressed a shared identity. Such local diversity suggests little collective identity amongst the 'middling sort', but indicates a range of different interests. This thesis thus argues for greater recognition of the many and varied degrees of people who were actually to be found in early modem England.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available