The Cultural Lives of the Middling Sort is a project in search of the experiences of a crucial early modern demographic. The late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries saw the significant growth of a group of individuals—men, women, families, and households—who were not landed gentry or nobility, but neither were they peasants or wage-labourers. They worked for their living, but they had some control over their labour (and sometimes that of others); they were not necessarily rich, but they had some ability to spend and borrow. The "middling", as this group is now often termed, encompassed a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and occupations, trades, crafts, or professions.
Perhaps because of this diversity, historians in search of concrete class identities have sometimes characterised this group as variously elusive, tricky to define, incoherent. It’s not until the late eighteenth century that historians can detect a set more easily aligned with conventional ideas of the "middle class". Yet the "middling" were at the centre of a crucial shift in Elizabethan, Stuart and Interregnum England centring on social mobility: one that begins to see new forms of social, economic, and cultural capital coalesce around a group of working people who had the ability both to consume and produce a variety of cultural artefacts, from literary works to medicines to furniture.
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6 September 2022
Last year, Middling Culture embarked on an ambitious project to digitally recreate an upper-middling status room from the 1620s. The space selected for this reconstruction is a (now)...
17 August 2022
Experience an immersive recreation of a parlour room from Elizabethan and Jacobean England and put your research questions to the test… As we have been discussing on this blog–with...
28 April 2022
Principal Investigator, Professor Catherine Richardson, introduces Middling Culture’s newest digital project – a virtual room from the 1620s. Quite a few years ago now, at the start...
7 March 2022
Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum, Michael Lewis, identifies some 'middling' dress accessories among the finds of the PAS.