Social Class and Social Contexts: Defining artisans and traders in Europe, 1550-1650
The Refashioning the Renaissance project focuses on dress and fashion among the middling classes of artisans and traders in Europe in 1550-1650. However, this extensive group of people who made and sold the clothes and furniture of their contemporaries, baked their bread, and provided services such as barbering, was far from uniform or homogeneous. How can we define this social group when social and occupational boundaries and definitions were often so variable and fluid?
This workshop focuses on the complex question of social class. It explores what occupations constituted the middling classes of artisans and shopkeepers, what their economic, social and professional status was, and how hierarchies were expressed both among their own social peers as well as in the society at large. Focusing on the social, political, economic and occupational structures across Italy, England, Denmark and Sweden-Finland, as well as on the attitudes that were expressed towards local artisans and shopkeepers in different regions and cities in early modern Europe, our aim is, first, to understand how the status of and definitions for the middling classes of artisans and small shopkeepers varied in different parts of Europe, and second, to identify the main problems and complexities that are associated with definitions when we deal with a vast class of people with variable and constantly changing conditions.