Iberian society

Authored by: Mafalda Soares da Cunha , Igor Knezevic

The Iberian World

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138921016
eBook ISBN: 9780429283697
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9780429283697-8

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Abstract

The Society of Estates endured as the dominant ideal throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but what was in theory a rigid system of social distinctions masked a considerable degree of flexibility in practice. Already by the fifteenth century, an increasingly complex social reality meant that the ordinary language of social description was unmoored from the simple functionalism of the tripartite system of estates—the bellatores, the oratores, and the labradores—if indeed that system was ever fully congruent with reality. The ensuing “terminological promiscuity” rendered any strictly hierarchical system virtually impossible to fix (Thompson 1992, 58; Monteiro 2006, 258). The terms endured, but their meanings expanded to accommodate new realities, groups, and outlooks. In a general sense, it may be said that the sixteenth century was a period of accelerated social mobility, during which wealth paved the way to social ascent, while the seventeenth century was one of consolidation in theory and practice, with a greater emphasis on blood and lineage—seemingly more immutable characteristics, though in practice open to challenge and manipulation.

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