mobility

From the 14th to the 15th century, women became much taller. Around the same time, says Chris Dillow:

In the 13th and 14th centuries, the richest people were overwhelming those whose names derived from places, whilst the poor tended to have names derived from crafts: Smith, Wright and suchlike. However, by the 16th century, this link between wealth and surnames had vanished; the rich were as likely to have craft surnames as the general population.
This, says Clark, suggests that there was complete social mobility, if we look at a long enough time-span.

You can probably guess that my pattern recognition bias and salience heuristic are going ape with this apparent correlation. What does this say about the entry to the early modern era?


  1. dsquared

    In the 15th century, Wales and big chunks of Scotland were dragged into modernity, bringing a vast number of clan names into the surname space (not sure about Scotland, but Wales used patronymics rather than surnames; so Ap Dafydd became Davies, Ap Ieuan became Evans, etc).

  2. guthrie

    It says that entry to the early modern era was very messy and difficult, leaving a lot of open spaces in business, land, government etc to be colonised by nuveau riche.

    BAd harvests, black death, multiple large wars including a civil war, the high rate of death of mothers in childbirth etc, all came together to ensure that there was room for mobility. But we’re talking about mobility on the lines of 3 to 8 generations, which isn’t very good is it? “Hey, you might be a slave now, but your great great grandchild will own 3 manors and a ship! Isn’t that great?”

    And overlooks the decrease in social mobility in the last decade or two. Anyone got any figures for the last 300 years? I was under teh distinct impression that improved stability and health care meant many fewer lines of rich people dying out and more concentration of wealth.




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