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The Middling Sort and the Politics of Social Reformation

Colchester, 1570-1640

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Richard Dean Smith

The interrelated demographic, economic, religious, and cultural transformations that England experienced in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries were most pronounced in larger towns in the south and east, such as Colchester in Essex. The effects produced by these changes led to an effort at social and sexual regulation by the town’s more prosperous residents, in order to control and modify the negative impact on the local population, especially the poor. This book provides an in-depth portrait of an urban setting, discussing both wrongdoers themselves and the motivations of the craftsmen and tradesmen – the «middling sorts» – who enforced local standards of conduct.