Radulescu, Raluca., and Truelove, Alison. Editor’s Introduction. Gentry Culture in Late Medieval England. Manchester University Press, 2005. Print.
The Editor’s Introduction shows the differences between individual members of the English Gentry. It combats the thought of “this sector of society as a uniform group” (1) by showing how one Gentry member can differ from another, but also concentrates on the aspects that do bring them together as a group. From those born into the position, those who work their way up through social climbing, and the differences between gentlemen and gentlewomen, the author shows how the group can be diverse.
A: Problem of finding a concrete definition for Gentry.
“Historians thus continue to grapple with the problem of how to define the membership of the Gentry, often turning to socio-economic factors for answers, whilst also acknowledging the value of looking beyond traditional defining characteristics such as wealth, pedigree and occupation” (1).
B: Aspects joining people as Gentry:
“The evolution of the Gentleman [is] a peer assessed phenomenon…the term gentleman/women encompassed a wide range of social ranks and types of behavior (5)”
A Gentleman is often associated with: wealth, office holding occupation, chivalry, loyalty, public recognition for work, gentle birth, worked into Gentleness oftentimes through service (military involvement, work in law and administration), ability to read and write, access to literature in textual communities and landownership. Women are in charge of the household and are social networkers who form communities in which the Gentry are involved. They uphold the family’s reputation.
That said it is important to note that people “possessed some degree of gentility” (5). It is unlikely that one person can poses all the aforementioned qualities so the label is somewhat fluid.
C: Aspects separating people as individuals within the Gentry:
Some people are born into the Gentry. Others work their way into the title. This creates a very different background for the members of the group. The former is born with the luxuries of a good education and social standing for which the former had to work. Men and women can both belong to the Gentry, but playing very different roles. Men have hold positions of office or authority and women mainly work in social networking.
A: Why is the editor intent on “not readily regarding this sector of society as a uniform group” (1)?
B: In this introduction we read that you don’t necessarily have to be born into the Gentry and that one could work his or her way into the position. How easily do you think this is done? Is it easier for men or women? What obstacles do you think they face in the transition?
C: How would you define the Gentry in accordance with main point A (definition aside from socio-economic factors)?