• Essays on Society & Culture by Penelope J. Corfield

3.2 Society & Culture

3.2.1 Class by Name and Number in Eighteenth-Century England (1987), Pdf7
This essay examines England’s shift from a society of intricately formalised ‘ranks’ to one of looser groupings known as ‘classes’. The terminological and sociological change is traced over many centuries with a special focus upon the long eighteenth century. The discussion here forms part of a trilogy of essays, to be read in conjunction with 3.2.2 and 3.2.5.

3.2.2 Hats and the Decline of Hat Honour (1989), Pdf8
This essay supports the case for social fluidity in Georgian Britain and afterwards, by showing how styles of greeting between individuals were adapted. The old ceremonial bowing and removal of the hat between men (known as ‘hat honour’) was gradually giving way to briefer tugs of the forelock and a casual cap-touching. Or, for women, the deep curtsey was turning into a quicker, lighter ‘bob’, sometimes accompanied by a ducking of the head. And then there was change within change. In the long run, the egalitarian handshake between equals began to take over, before being upstaged in the later twentieth century by the continental embrace and kiss(es) on the cheek. The discussion here forms part of a trilogy of essays, to be read in conjunction with 3.2.1 and 3.2.5.

3.2.3 Doffing One’s Hat (BLOG/ 45, Sept. 2014)
A short accessible summary of arguments given in greater details in 3.2.2.

3.2.4 The History of the Handshake (2019 REPORT)
A short accessible survey of a theme (updated 2019) which follows upon the trends discussed within 3.2.2.

3.2.5 The Rivals: Landed and Other Gentlemen (1996), Pdf9
Over time, the alluring status of the ‘English gentleman’ became ever more popular and more flexible, both in social teaching and actual usage. The broadening range of people claiming this unofficial title in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries constituted a bridge between the titled nobility and the middle class. Eventually, the ideal of ‘nature’s gentleman’ was ever more elevated into the proxy for a secular saint and the social usage expired in the effort of applying it to a mass democracy. The discussion here forms part of a trilogy of essays, to be read in conjunction with 3.2.1 and 3.2.2.

3.2.6 Cross-Class Marriage in History (BLOG/13, Oct. 2011) While cross-class sexual encounters were comparatively common, cross-class marriages were much rarer. Yet they did happen. This short essay analyses a number of historical instances and their varied outcomes.

3.2.7 ‘Foreword’ to Margaret Bird’s essays on Mary Hardy & Her World, 1773-1803 (2020), Pdf59. This short Foreword analyses the strengths and weaknesses of diaries as an invaluable source for social and cultural history. It does that by way of introducing a remarkable diaries kept by Mary Hardy, wife and business partner of a Norfolk ‘middling sort’ brewer and farmer – and the equally remarkable essays which analyse Hardy’s public and private worlds, published in four sumptuous volumes by Margaret Bird.