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3 - Temporal Estates – Farmers, Traders, Fighters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Thomas A. Brady Jr.
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
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Summary

Ill fares the land, to hast'ning ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates, and men decay;

Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;

A breath can make them, as a breath has made;

But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,

When once destroyed, can never be supplied.

Oliver Goldsmith.

With daring aims, irregularly great,

Pride in their port, defiance in their eye,

I see the lords of human kind pass by.

Oliver Goldsmith

The concept of estates or orders – functionally distinct, legally defined social groups – shaped the feudal age's social consciousness as fundamentally as the idea of class does that of the capitalist age. Adalbero (d. 1030), an eleventh-century bishop of Laon in the kingdom of West Francia, expressed in a classic form the three orders that comprise what he called “the House of God”: those who pray, those who fight, and those who work. Over the next 500 years, Adalbero's “orders” became “estates,” a less normative and more descriptive term rooted in the law. The change reflected such long-range trends as the advance of a money economy, greater social mobility, the decay of kinship, and of Christian notions of equality. Some regretted the results. In 1494 the Strasbourg lawyer-poet Sebastian Brant (1457–1521) condemned the decay of social distinctions as contrary to God's providence: “In every land the disgrace is great/ No longer is there anyone/satisfied with his estate.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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