Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Tudor Year: October

Theme: paradox -- population growth and poverty



Recreation of a Tudor farm. (Image no longer available on the web. Originally from www.wealddown-schools.org.uk; see Weald and Downland Open Air Museum.)

October 12: birth of Prince Edward, 1537
October 24: death of Queen Jane (Seymour), 1537


The salient fact about sixteenth-century England was population growth and therefore -- because a pre-industrial economy did not have enough work for all -- falling wages. People turned out of their situations by the dissolution of the monasteries and the breaking up of great feudal households were reduced to building shelter on 'waste' ground. Country men and women who could find work on a gentleman's estate (like William Petre's) would at least be fed in the master's hall during their employ. A cottage might be one room, 16 feet long, to house a family. Fairly comfortable people might bequeath clothes, furniture, and fireplace tools in their wills; a poor woman left a cow and calf, apples, and a parcel of wool. The half-timbered 'Tudor' architecture with which we are familiar only came in in the second half of the sixteenth century, and then only among the better-off farmers. For great King Harry, October was the month of his one legitimate son's birth, and of the death of the baby's mother twelve days later.

Sources:

Guy, John. "The Tudor Age," in The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, ed. Kenneth O. Morgan. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1984, pp. 223-228.

Fussell, George Edwin. The English Rural Labourer: His Home, Furniture, Clothing & Food from Tudor to Victorian Times. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975 (originally published by the Batchworth Press, London, 1949), pp. 3-4.

Emmison, F. G. Tudor Secretary: Sir William Petre at Court and Home. London and Chichester: Phillimore & Co., 1970 (first published by Longmans, Green, & Co., 1961), pp. 140-141.

Fussell, p. 6.

Ibid., pp. 14-16

Ibid., p. 8.

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