Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Class in Great Britain circa 1814

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Loretta reports:

Some nutty commentary during the recent royal wedding made it clear that the British class structure confuses most Yanks.  While the U.S. has socioeconomic classes and the associated prejudices, it's a different species.

Here’s the British social structure as Patrick Colquhoun analyzed it in 1814.  The figures at the end of each class indicate (1) total heads of families, and (2) total everyone else in the category.  Does anything here make you say, "Hmmmm"? 
1ST.  The Royal Family, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal the Great Officers of State, and all above the degree of a Baronet, with their families.....  
576 — 2,880

2nd.  Baronets, Knights, Country Gentlemen, and others having large incomes, with their families.....48,861— 234,305

3rd.  Dignified Clergy, Persons holding considerable employments in the state, elevated situations in the Law, eminent Practitioners in Physic, considerable Merchants, Manufacturer upon a large scale, and Bankers of the first order, with their families.....12,200 — 61,000

4th.  Persons holding inferior situations in Church and State, respectable Clergymen of different persuasions, Practitioners in Law and Physic, Teachers of Youth of the superior order, respectable Freeholders, Ship Owners, Merchants and Manufacturers of the second class, Warehousemen and respectable Shopkeepers, Artists, respectable Builders, Mechanics, and Persons living on moderate incomes, with their families.....233,650 — 1,168,250

5th.  Lesser Freeholders.  Shopkeepers of the second order, Innkeepers, Publican’s, and Persons engaged in miscellaneous occupations or living on moderate incomes, with their families.....     564,799 — 2,798,475

6th.  Working Mechanics, Artisans, Handicrafts, Agricultural Labourers, and others who subsist by labour in various employments, with their families.....                                                               2,126,095 — 8,792,800

7th.  Paupers and their families, Vagrants, Gipsies, Rogues, Vagabonds, and idle and disorderly persons, supported by criminal delinquency.....387,100 — 1,826,170

Officers of the Army, Navy, and Marines, including all Officers on half-pay and superannuated, with their families.....               10,500 — 69,000

Non-commissioned Officers in the Army, Navy, and Marines, Soldiers, Seamen, and Marines, including Pensioners of the Army, Navy, &c. and their families.....                                             120,000 — 862,000

—Patrick Colquhoun, A treatise on the wealth, power, and resources of the British empire, 1814.

Upper left:  Thomas Lawrence, The Prince Regent, 1816.
Lower right:  Thomas Rowlandson, Seaman.


Hels said...

Love it :)

It is interesting that officers and men of the Army, Navy, and Marines were seen as outside the class system. Unless they were Country Gentlemen and others having large incomes, people who were just mucking around in the armed services.

Academics, scholars, salaried scientists etc don't really fit in either.. unless they are half way between the Third and Fourth Classes.

BaronessVonVintage said...

Interesting thought, Hels. My thought: wouldn't scholars have been men from the upper eschelons pursuing education as part of their lives of leisure and privilege (i.e. Lord Byron)? If they were professors, I wonder if that was part of the Fourth Order "teachers of the youth of superior order." Salaried scientists...hmm, again, that feels like a modern category at this time (just guessing). It seems like many gentlemen were "amateur" scientists in the early to late 19th century. Professional scientists likely would have had wealthy patrons (vs. big corporations paying them?)....so seems like if they were conducting science for a salary, they were lower class than the "amateur" class of scientists--this working for wages would assumably have meant they were from fourth or fifth orders as well? Just guessing based on research done for my English/Victorian lit degrees... FASCINATING stuff!

BaronessVonVintage said...

As for military men, I seem to recall reading something about how the miltary (or clergy) was often the destiny of the second or later son in a wealthy family, as the laws of primogeniture meant the eldest son inherited the family wealth/property.

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