Now that I’m getting the hang of writing and sending out newsletters and blogs; I thought I’d re-publish some old gems like this, ‘Renaissance Era Middle Class’. I used to write a newsletter in 2000 through 2004. Lots of it is good stuff, written to promote interest in the middle-class renaissance people, one’s persona, and costuming.
The newsletter was and is about what can be done, definitely not about telling people what they cannot do. It is full of researched information on period style, society and the arts, and offers creative interpretations to enhance the experience of renfaire enthusiasts, SCA members, and now cosplayers. I think it bears memorializing in this format online, and I hope you enjoy. I have edited it a tiny bit for better reading.
I’ve added some new customers to the newsletter inner circle. If you are getting this email/blog for the first time, welcome aboard! I hope you find value in my writing. If not – that’s okay. Just message me and request to unsubscribe.
The Middle Class as a Social Entity
“It is the best of all estates; they live very nobly, can wear clothes fit for a king; they have falcons… fine saddle horses… when the knights are obliged to go to the army, the bourgeoisie stay in bed; when the knights go to be massacred in battle, the bourgeoisie go on swimming parties and picnics.”
by Renard le Contrefait, 14th Century
The middle class encompasses varying levels of social strata, from wealthy businessmen to small merchant – artisans alike. All in all, the middle class can be defined as the ‘bourgeoisie’ (boo-zshwa-zee), or professional and freemen with no landed titles or noble blood.
The bourgeoisie begin to rise in prominence during the later Middle Ages, around 1200 AD. It was during this time of increasing trade and productivity that freemen and townspeople became recognized as an independent social class. Increased trading and exploration furthered this growth.
As the middle class grew wealthier, they attempted to imitate their ‘betters’ with their dress, deportment, and education. Sons that previously would have been trained in the family business were sent to college or university to achieve a noble education. The wealthier individuals became patrons of the arts; and everyone attempted to dress as expensively as they could!
By the time of the Renaissance, capitalism and trading opportunities in Europe and the New World had spurred the growth of a wealthy social class that exhibited political force, considerable financial power, and supported kings, emperors, and clergy through financial assistance and by means of trade and industry.
Members of the renaissance era middle class were Merchants, Bankers and Financiers, Dyers, Fullers, Bakers, Money-lenders, Ship’s Captains, Ship’s Owners, and Government employees just to name a few. The variety of occupation and opportunity afforded to this portion of society is a reflection of the social flowering of Renaissance period itself.