Elizabethan Society | tutor2u History
Study notes

Elizabethan Society

  • Levels: GCSE
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

Elizabethan Society was a very different place to the society that we live in today. Many of the things we take for granted now simply did not exist in Elizabeth’s time. Society was based on strict social structures that ensured everyone knew their place. It was through this system that Elizabethan society functioned.

The Procession Picture, c. 1600

At the top of the social structure was the Monarch. Below them came the nobility and gentry. Both the nobility and gentry would have owned quite a lot of land. Under the gentry came the Yeomen. Yeomen were lesser gentry who owned land but not as much as the nobility and gentry.

Underneath the yeomen were the Tenant farmers, these were people who rented their land from the yeomen or gentry. Beneath all of this were the labouring poor who did not own any land, and then at the bottom of the pile came the homeless and vagrants.

This structure kept order in society. It did this because those people in the structure respected the level above them, and if you had people below you, you had to care for them when times were hard. Respect should flow up the system, and care should flow down.

This structure was common in the countryside, which is where most people lived in the country. However, it could also be found in the towns. In towns, instead of being about how much land you owned, it was all about money. The wealthy were at the top, and the poor were at the bottom.

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