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The Pastons and Their England by H.S. Bennett is an interesting story about the lives of an ordinary affluent fifteenth century

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The Pastons were very unique because not only were they part of a growing new level in society, due to the fall of feudalism, called the middle class, but also because their letters vividly depict a huge shift in the fifteenth century that saw a new economic situation develop causing the old regime, feudalism, to gradually fall and collapse. The Pastons and Their England by H.S. Bennett is an interesting story about the lives of an ordinary affluent fifteenth century gentry family because it reveals many aspects of their everyday life as well as the changing face of the medieval English countryside. Their letters recreate through correspondence their struggle and triumphs during this time. Bennett's book shows a time of great historical transition by putting the Pastons challenges and individual lives into historical context; in doing so, the book looks at the Pastons' family's experiences during the Wars of the Roses; at their careers in local government and society; the marriage market; the challenges of managing their estates; life within their household both in peace and war; the education of the Paston children; their religious interests and their leisure activities. By visiting the major issues raised by the book, the authors interpretation of the letters and the type of history being written, I will show how the Pastons letters enable us, the reader, to view their world from the inside thereby providing pertinent information about this changing age in history. The importance of this new age of middle class was undisputable as the awakening of this gentry class gave the opportunity for a better life to many people just like the Pastons. ...read more.


The Pastons had no option but to leave and sadly, the only defence that John Paston had against Molynes was an indictment. This accusation was thrown out of court due to the fact that Lord Molynes had more personal influence in Court. Another example of this is the Paston family found itself embroiled in yet another struggle: The Siege of Caister. The term 'law' was seen as a bit of a joke as since the long arm of the law didn't stretch very far, which was partly due to the major change at the time. Feudalism was declining and because of this two new classes of people emerged: a middle class and an urban population. Lots of landowners had serfs that left at random because they were not willing to work for 'free' anymore. But, the fact of the matter was that these serfs couldn't find work elsewhere and many of them turned to crime. This had a major impact, as people formed groups and rebelled against the higher powers. The king, even, was not ready for rebellious new age. The Pastons inevitably became another prime example of how the law couldn't support their cases and why the king couldn't deal with the current upheaval in the feudal system. So, as Bennett points out we can see the Pastons had a hard road ahead but were holding their own in the constant struggle that was taking place in fifteenth century England. In this way Bennett puts the Pastons in the correct context of their time. ...read more.


They even included the smallest details such s the value of a book of that the tenants of property would own the windows of the house. These details give us an inside look at life during this chaotic time. The Pastons unknowingly wrote history that was very diverse, as their letters cover most main topics of this era. The Pastons ongoing war over property shows us what life was like for the rising middle class. The feeling of struggle is felt throughout the book. The Pastons and Their England overall was a very good example of how history can be explained ion a manor other than a textbook. The Pastons showed the transition from a prevailing major system of government and life to a new age that was beginning to form a society that was built around law and parliament. Furthermore, the Pastons give us an interesting insight into the ordinary lives of the emerging middle class. The letters provide us with a uniquely candid and detailed insight into the life of this particular family, who being a member of the landed gentry were not aristocrats. This allows these letters to provide a much clearer depiction of day to day life as more generally experienced in this period which most other historic sources fail to capture. 1 H.S. Bennett, The Pastons and Their England (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 180. 2 Bennett, 181-182. 3 Bennett, 3. 4 Bennet, 4. 5 Bennett, 105. 6 Bennett, 6. 7 Bennett, 7. 8 Bennett, 9. 9 Bennett, 12. 10 Bennett, 35 11 Bennett, 37 ?? ?? ?? ?? Boogerd 1 ...read more.

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