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Important Aspects of Early Modern English Society

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Early modern England is a lot different to New Zealand in the early twenty first century. Almost every aspect of early modern English society contrasts greatly with New Zealand today. Three aspects where this contrast is especially pronounced are in the society was structured, the political make up of the country and the economy.

Society in Early Modern England was rigidly structured in a hierarchical system, in which God was at the top, and peasants and vagrants occupied the bottom slot. Society was also split in to two classes, those who governed, and those who were governed over. The governing class was made up of the nobility and the gentry. They controlled two thirds of England's land, but made up only five percent of the population. The other ninety five percent were the governed class. They included wealthy merchants lawyers and non-titled lawyers, although they were by far the minority. The majority were tenant farmers, landless labourers, paupers and vagrants. The structure was not completely set. You could move up in society, by a good marriage or getting land. You could also move down. Early Modern England was also a patriarchal society, in which women, of any class, were seen to be inferior to men.

Early Modern England was a monarchy. The monarch was advised mostly by his/her privy councillors, a group of advisers she/he elected themselves. The monarch also ruled with the aide of Parliament, who they called and dismissed themselves. Parliament gave the King or Queen advice, which they did not have to take. The Monarch and the Parliament made the Acts of Parliament, which were the laws. The monarch did not have complete rule over parliament; there were several things they could not do without parliaments approval, such as implement taxes. The political system was not reliant on democracy, rather patronage. Patronage is what we would today look at as bribery, but was then what kept the political system flowing. Patronage was given in return for services or loyalty.

The Early Modern English economy was largely agrarian. Technology and trade were not widely developed, and much of the population lived in rural areas. Crops and stock were the main sources of income, and therefore the economy was not stable, as a bad winter could wipe out peoples livelihoods. Most of the population just grew enough to feed their families.

Early modern England was a backward agrarian society. Its social structure was

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