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Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England$
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Alexandra Shepard

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299348

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299348.001.0001

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The ‘Ancienter Sort’

The ‘Ancienter Sort’

(p.214) 8 The ‘Ancienter Sort’
Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England


Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the extent to which older men were able to retain their purchase on male status. It argues that old age, in contrast to youth, was more likely to be a period of gender convergence than a leveller of social status. The experiences of old men, and their continued access either to patriarchal dividends or to competing codes of manhood, varied considerably according to means and physical capacity. There is considerable evidence of older men continuing to hold office, and to support themselves and their households into very advanced years, and the very old were revered as guardians of custom and local tradition. Others pursued alternative survival strategies in common with younger men of limited means. Many, however, resumed positions as dependants, either through retirement arrangements with kin, or by resorting to charity and poor relief, limiting, if not precluding, access to the autonomy commonly associated with manhood.

Keywords:   old age, retirement, custom, office holding, poor relief

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