The Place of the Aristocracy
The Carmarthenshire aristocracy were a propertied elite: their control of society stemmed from their ownership of land. Although the wealth they derived from their property set them apart from the rest of society, it also bound them inseparably to it: the paternalistic ethos fostered and enforced within the aristocracy made them responsible, very specifically, for the welfare of the individuals and communities associated with their land. The practical impact of aristocratic influence in general, and paternalism in particular, depended ultimately upon the landholding configuration of any given parish, and was not a constant factor throughout the countryside. Any study of the aristocracy as a governing elite must, therefore, begin with a consideration of the aristocracy as landowners. Consequently, this chapter is built around an analysis of two major sources, the Return of the Owners of Land, published in 1874, and the numerous title surveys carried out in the county between 1836 and 1845.
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