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The English Urban RenaissanceCulture and Society in the Provincial Town 1660-1770$
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Peter Borsay

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780198202554

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198202554.001.0001

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The Pursuit of Status

The Pursuit of Status

Chapter:
(p.225) 9 The Pursuit of Status
Source:
The English Urban Renaissance
Author(s):

Peter Borsay

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198202554.003.0009

This chapter investigates how social status during this period was acquired and competed. In early modern Britain, status could only be acquired among the wealthy and powerful through birth. As a result of several changes in the economy, the rules around the idea of being a gentleman were revolutionized. Previously, newly prosperous man would not have had any opportunity for social advancement. This situation changed and social advancement could be achieved regardless of parental background. William Harrison explained in 1577 that any man who ‘can live without manual labour, and thereto is able and will bear the port, charge, and countenance of a gentleman, he shall for money have a coat of arms bestowed upon his family by the heralds . . . and be reputed for a gentleman ever after’. This simply meant that a person could become a gentleman as long as he looked and behaved like one.

Keywords:   social status, influential, wealthy, powerful, birth, social advancement, parental background, William Harrison

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