Order as social closure II: the clergy

  • S. H. Rigby


If, in many respects, the notions of late medieval social structure propounded by contemporaries failed to capture the social reality of late medieval England (chapter 5), this does not mean that we need abandon the concept of stratification by social order and simply analyse medieval society in terms of its class relations and property rights. On the contrary, the view of medieval England as a society of orders does serve an extremely useful purpose in emphasising the social differences between clergy and laity. In practice, it makes more sense when examining the status divisions of medieval England to divide society into two orders, the clergy and the laity, rather than the three estates beloved of theorists of the time, since, despite their own marked internal inequalities of wealth, power and status, the clergy constituted a status-group whose members were clearly set apart from the laity in terms of their access to wealth, their lifestyle and their status.


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Select Bibliography

  1. P. Heath, The English Parish Clergy on the Eve of the Reformation (London, 1969).Google Scholar
  2. P. Heath, Church and Realm, 1272–1461 (London, 1988).Google Scholar
  3. R. N. Swanson, Church and Society in Late Medieval England (Oxford, 1989).Google Scholar
  4. A. Hudson, The Premature Reformation (Oxford, 1988).Google Scholar

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© S. H. Rigby 1995

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  • S. H. Rigby

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