Income by Social Grouping

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Gregory King (1648 to 1712) was Secretary to to the Commission of Public Accounts and Secretary to the Controllers of Army Accounts and he compiled extensive statistics on the population of England and Wales in the seventeenth century. However, the piece of work for which he is most famous is a table showing household income and expenditure by social group. The table has generated considerable discussion over the years, not least over its accuracy and the reasons for King choosing 1688 as the year to use for his calculations. Professor Holmes analysed the arguments at some length in the paper that he delivered to the Royal Historical Society in 1976 and concluded that King compiled his data in 1696 but chose the date of 1688 as the reference point for personal political reasons. However, Holmes (Holmes 1977, p. 54) also maintains that King '...[underestimated] the number of families in some of the wealthiest, and fiscally most productive classes; and... [underestimated] (sometimes quite grossly) income levels at many rungs above the poverty line...'. He points out that (Holmes 1977, p 54) Lawrence Stone '...estimated the mean gross income, from all sources, of 121 peers in 1641 at £6,060...'. Holmes goes on to make similar points about other social groups within King's table. Paul Slack (2004 p.207) acknowledges the criticisms but makes the point that '...Although often criticized, they continue to be the starting point for almost all studies of England's pre-industrial society and economy...'. In the end, however, King has provided us with his opinion (and it must always be remembered that this is the opinion of one individual with strong right-wing political views) on income and expenditure towards the end of the seventeenth century. From that point of view the table is useful to us provided it is not taken as a scientifically derived and therefore demonstrably accurate analysis of the situation some thirty years after the ECW period.

In looking at the table it is important to remember that at the time that King compiled his data, a 'family' included servants as well as blood relations. That is why the Lords Temporal, for example, show here has having 40 family members per household.

The two columns showing the per centage of the total have been added to King's original table for information on this page. In addition, some of the column headings have been abbreviated in order to reduce the width of the table.


Ranks, degrees, titles and qualifications Number of families % of total No. people per family Total no. in rank Annual income per family % of total
Lords temporal 160 0.01% 40 6,400 £2,800.00 1.00%
Lords Spiritual 26 0.00% 20 520 £1,300.00 0.08%
Baronets 800 0.06% 16 12,800 £880.00 1.57%
Knights 600 0.04% 13 7,800 £650.00 0.87%
Esquires 3,000 0.22% 10 30,000 £450.00 3.02%
[Eminent] Merchants and Traders by Sea 2,000 0.14% 8 16,000 £400.00 1.79%
Gentlemen 12,000 0.86% 8 96,000 £280.00 7.51%
Persons in [greater] Offices 5,000 0.36% 8 40,000 £240.00 2.68%
[Lesser] Merchants and Traders by Sea 8,000 0.58% 6 48,000 £200.00 3.58%
Persons in the Law 10,000 0.72% 7 70,000 £140.00 3.13%
Persons in [lesser] Offices 5,000 0.36% 6 30,000 £120.00 1.34%
Freeholders [of the better sort] 40,000 2.88% 7 280,000 £84.00 7.51%
Naval Officers 5,000 0.36% 4 20,000 £80.00 0.89%
[Eminent] Clergymen 2,000 0.14% 6 12,000 £60.00 0.27%
Military Officers 4,000 0.29% 4 16,000 £60.00 0.54%
Persons in Sciences and Liberal Arts 16,000 1.15% 5 80,000 £60.00 2.15%
Freeholders [of the lesser sort] 140,000 10.07% 5 700,000 £50.00 15.65%
[Lesser] Clergymen 8,000 0.58% 5 40,000 £45.00 0.80%
Shopkeepers and Tradesmen 40,000 2.88% 4.5 180,000 £45.00 4.02%
Farmers 150,000 10.79% 5 750,000 £44.00 14.75%
Artisans and Handicrafts 60,000 4.31% 4 240,000 £40.00 5.36%
Common Seamen 50,000 3.60% 3 150,000 £20.00 2.24%
Labouring People and Out Servants 364,000 26.18% 3.5 1,275,000 £15.00 12.20%
Common Soldiers 35,000 2.52% 2 70,000 £14.00 1.10%
Cottagers and Paupers 400,000 28.76% 3.25 1,300,000 £6.50 5.81%
Vagrants as Gipsies, Thieves, Beggars etc 30,000 2.16% 1 30,000 £2.00 0.13%
TOTALS 1,390,586 100% 5,500,520 100.00%


REFERENCES

Holmes, G. S., Gregory King and the Social Structure of Pre-Industrial England, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Fifth Series, Vol. 27 (1977), pp. 41-68

Slack, Paul, Measuring the National Wealth in Seventeenth-Century England, The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Nov., 2004)