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The University of Southampton
Lifelong Learning

Who Did They Think They Were?

Nobleman, gentleman or peasant: society in the fifteenth century


During the fifteenth century England experienced profound political and social change: the impact of a continental war, civil war, the problems of a minority king and a contested kingship which saw the usurpation of four kings. The module will examine the impact these events had on society, as the fortunes of kings, nobles and gentry changed. The module will examine the impact that these regular usurpations had on the ideas of kingship, status and service.  

The module will begin with a brief overview of the century as minority governments struggled for control and the king was overthrown on a regular basis. We will look at the mobility of society in this period, and how class was demonstrated.

The module will include case studies of individuals and families, women and marriage, tournaments and tombs to illustrate the different social groups and perceptions of status. The module will also introduce you to sources that will enable you to discuss and explore these themes within the context of fifteenth century England. While families such as the Pastons and Sir John Falstaff left good records, the majority of the population can only be known from a rare appearance in government records.

Documents such as wills and inventories will be investigated to try and obtain a glimpse of the everyday lives of people, while the writings of the Goodman of Paris and Christine de Pisan will provide a contemporary view of the correct place for women and what was considered acceptable behaviour.


Date: Thursday evenings, starting 4th October 2012
Time: 7 - 9 pm
Duration: 12 meetings

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