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Work and Society in Newcastle upon Tyne, c. 1600-1710

BURN, ANDREW,JAMES (2014) Work and Society in Newcastle upon Tyne, c. 1600-1710. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This study examines the social context of work in seventeenth-century England through a case study of Newcastle upon Tyne, based on a relational database of tens of thousands of linked parish, tax and probate records. Newcastle was a boom town at the start of the seventeenth century, and while the surge in the coal industry produced great wealth for some, it brought flocks of migrant workers that made Newcastle perhaps the fastest-growing provincial town in England. Newcastle’s experience was by no means typical, but it is an example of an early modern town changing under economic opportunity and demographic pressure. As well as coal, the town sustained a variety of older trades throughout, although there was a decisive and important structural shift towards wage labour over the century. However, there was no artificial separation between these industrial and ‘traditional’ workers, nor were the new migrants as universally poor as has sometimes been suggested; the ‘hierarchy of occupations’ was more an overlapping series of loose categories rather than a rigid structure. The availability and regularity of work is shown to be the critically important factor in making a living in the town even when, by the second half of the seventeenth century, the first coal boom was over and Newcastle society began to settle into its new patterns of life and work.

The study is structured around a series of thematic chapters. Chapter Two charts the development of Newcastle from a relatively marginal port to a huge exporter of coal. Chapter Three explores the impact this growth had on Newcastle’s migration-fuelled demography. Chapter Four offers analysis of structural change in occupations brought by these developments, using the parish registers to offer a fuller picture than can be gleaned from other sources. Chapter Five maps occupations in the town and considers whether it was geographically segregated by occupation or class, as well as the role of Newcastle’s burgeoning suburbs. Chapter Six introduces linked probate and hearth tax evidence to analyse the wealth and status of individuals working in different groups. Chapter Seven considers the work role of the family in supplementing the income of the household head. Finally, Chapter Eight brings together work from other chapters in considering the meanings and rewards of proletarian labour in early modern England, and in particular in Newcastle.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Newcastle upon Tyne, north-east England, work, labour, occupations, employment, economic and social history, parish registers, probate inventories, database
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 May 2014 15:15

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