An Ordered Society: Gender and Class in Early Modern England by Susan Dwyer Amussen

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By Susan Dwyer Amussen

Amussen's shiny account of relatives and village lifestyles in England from the reign of Elizabeth I to the accession of the Hanoverian monarchies describes the family financial system of the wealthy and the terrible; the tactics of courtship, marriage, and marital breakdown; and the constitution of energy in the relations and in rural groups

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For the immediate argument, however, the important thing is not so much the shape of social structure itself as that of the authority systems that sustained it. All had one thing in common. Either in terms of ‘religion’ or ‘loyalty’ they demanded a more or less direct identity with ruling-class values and ruled out any legitimate expression of separate labour interests. For the first phase of capitalist development this is, of course, just what one would expect. The overriding priority was to bind the emergent mass labour force to the new employer class—and to do so during a period when the old self-imposed disciplines of peasant-craft society were (at one and the same time) both disintegrating and still dangerously potent.

Within a hundred years all this was changed. The feudal landlords had vanished. 13 Six of the seven fought on the losing side in the Civil War (the Cudworths kept out). 14 Locally at least the catalyst seems to have been the early seventeenthcentury burst of cheap-labour production. The development of European 22 INDUSTRIALIZATION AND SOCIETY demand for the low quality ‘new draperies’ gave merchants the incentive to take production into hitherto untouched areas of the countryside. In Oldham the infiltration seems to have been managed from Manchester (though close commercial contact was kept with London).

The feudal landlords had vanished. 13 Six of the seven fought on the losing side in the Civil War (the Cudworths kept out). 14 Locally at least the catalyst seems to have been the early seventeenthcentury burst of cheap-labour production. The development of European 22 INDUSTRIALIZATION AND SOCIETY demand for the low quality ‘new draperies’ gave merchants the incentive to take production into hitherto untouched areas of the countryside. In Oldham the infiltration seems to have been managed from Manchester (though close commercial contact was kept with London).

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