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Title: Yeomen and their families in late Stuart rural West Berkshire : strategies for success in a time of transition
Author: West , Martin
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis adopts the micro-analytical methods of local history to expand understanding of the late Stuart period. It focuses on local dynastic families, just beneath the level of gentry, residing in a part of rural West Berkshire comprising 30 contiguous parishes. Most of their males used the descriptor 'yeoman'. Many of these families appear to have left the area by the 1720s. Little evidence of financial hardship has been found, so forced sales of land, a theme found in the historiography of this period, does not seem to have caused this widespread migration. A combination of factors suggests that its reason may have lain partly in a gradual perception that their social position had become less certain than in earlier generations. Firstly, it is possible that their doubt about gentility's reach and their continued nervousness after the Civil War may have caused some gentry to increase their distance from other social groups, including even local rural dynastic families, with whom a symbiotic relationship may have long existed. Secondly, once the emergence of 'middling people' began to be noted, some local dynastic families may have experienced difficulty in maintaining their inclusion amongst rural 'better sorts'. Thirdly, the designator 'yeoman', earlier a desirable marker of distinction for local dynastic families, may have declined in prestige by the late Stuart period, adversely affecting the reputations of their descendants. In combination, these factors perhaps began undermining a social position based on pursuing, in ancestral locations, strategies inherited from earlier generations. Several pieces of evidence suggest that, for rural West Berkshire, whereas the 'tipping point' occurred in the 1720s, the seeds for this gradual abandonment of a traditional way of life and an established way of making money may have been sown during the late Stuart period.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Yeomanry