Social status calculator shows what “class” you would have been in Shakespeare’s day

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Bayleaf is a half-timbered hall house dating mainly from the early 15th century. The central hall, heated by an open fire, is flanked on one side by service rooms and on the other by bedrooms for the owner and his family.

Researchers from the University of Kent, King’s College London and the University of Birmingham have developed a classroom calculator to explore the cultural and social world of the 16and and 17and Century England. The calculator will allow individuals to see where they would have sat on the social scale during the period from 1560 to 1660 and can be used as a research tool to identify the status of historical figures.

The social status calculatorinspired by 2013 BBC Great British Class Calculatoris an educational tool that details what an “intermediate” status would mean for those who lived in the 16and and 17and England of the last century – the kind of people who were neither very rich nor very poor.

Teacher Catherine RichardsonProfessor of Modern Age Cultural Studies at the University of Kent and Principal Investigator of the project, said: “We wanted to find a lighthearted way to explore what life was like for different status groups in the early 1900s. modern England – a lot of research in archives and museum collections is behind it, but we hope it’s basically a lot of fun to use! It’s one of the tools we use to help us think about the cultural life of Shakespeare’s contemporaries in the round and to study the impact of relationships between wealth, possessions, occupation, skills and lifestyle – to deepen our understanding of how literacy and creative practices may have affected a family’s social mobility.

We developed the Social Status Calculator as a means of determining how to place people in the changing social world of 16th and 17th century England. Our research reveals how status degrees were understood not only in terms of what you did for a living or who your father was, but also what possessions you owned and how you spent your free time. The calculator is a really useful tool for testing our ideas about class against how people in Shakespeare’s time would have thought and participated in the social mobility of the time.

Dr Tara Hamling, Lecturer in Early Modern Studies at the University of Birmingham and co-investigator of the project

During this period, society was not only divided between “poor” or “aristocratic”, there were many people in the middle. These people bought beautiful furniture, had specialized creative skills, and cultivated complex social networks. These were literate urban households whose members engaged in a variety of cultural forms for work and beyond. The project reveals the untold stories of ordinary men and women who were contemporaries of well-known individuals like William Shakespeare.

medium culture is an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project that aims to transform our understanding of how reading, writing and material culture fit into the daily lives of ‘average’ people in England during this important period in history.

the the social groups calculator is available online.

To learn more about the Middling Culture project, you can visit the website.

For further information or interviews, please contact: Hasan Salim Patel, Communications Manager (Arts, Law and Social Sciences) or call the press office outside office hours on +44 (0) 7789 921 165 .

About the University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is ranked among the top 100 institutions in the world, its work attracts people from all over the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and over 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

About the University of Kent

The University of Kent is a leading UK university producing world-class research, ranked internationally excellent and leading the way in many fields of study. Our 20,000 students are based at campuses and centers in Canterbury, Medway, Brussels and Paris.

About King’s College London

King’s College London is one of the top 10 UK universities in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2018/19) and one of the oldest in England. King’s has over 31,000 students (including over 12,800 postgraduates) from some 150 countries around the world and some 8,500 employees.


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