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The fear of downward social mobility in late medieval England.

Brown, A. T. (2019) 'The fear of downward social mobility in late medieval England.', Journal of medieval history., 45 (5). pp. 597-617.


Studies of medieval social mobility have tended to focus upon the success of socially ambitious, generally male, careerists. Alongside this tendency to use social mobility as a synonym for upward mobility has been a tradition of assigning the most agency in creating economic change to ambitious entrepreneurs. This article redresses these imbalances by exploring status anxiety and the fear of downward mobility in late medieval England. Using the surviving letter collections of the fifteenth century together with medieval literature, this article explores not only the importance of gender and the life cycle in shaping these fears but also the subtle distinctions between status anxiety, which often accompanied positions of authority, and a fear of imminent social decline, generally precipitated by financial difficulties. Through a reconsideration of demesne lessees and fraternities and guilds, it also shows how such anxieties and fears could affect both rural and urban economic developments.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Medieval History on 31 August 2019 available online:
Date accepted:15 October 2018
Date deposited:16 October 2018
Date of first online publication:31 August 2019
Date first made open access:03 March 2021

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