TIDE is pleased to announce a collaboration with the AHRC-funded Middling Culture project, directed by Professor Catherine Richardson at the University of Kent. Middling Culture examines the cultural practices of the oft-neglected ‘middling sort’, an urban and literate social group to which some of the most significant prose and dramatic writers of the period belonged. As the team are keen to stress, this expansive group was neither ethnically nor culturally homogenous, but rather reflected the increasing plurality of England’s urban centres and the transcultural lives of its inhabitants. By collaborating on educational materials and resources, TIDE and Middling Culture aim to draw further attention to the fluidity of the middling sort, and those particularly mobile figures who moved across borders and boundaries of all kinds, resisting easy categorisation.
Researchers on the TIDE project have produced blogposts on three transcultural London residents using the Middling Culture Social Status Calculator, an interactive tool that determines the status of a subject with questions about property holdings, employment, and social networks. All three offer a fresh perspective on the lives of these figures: where, for example, will it place Luisa de Carvajal, a noblewoman who renounced her wealth, took a vow of poverty and perfection, moved to a new country, and pitted herself against Protestant authorities in London? What about Joan Lete, the daughter of an exceptionally wealthy Turkey Company merchant whose stability depended on far flung ships returning home? Or the celebrated ‘Englishman in Italiane’, John Florio, the London-born son of migrants and champion of Italian culture and language in England?
These blogs aim to highlight the changing and transcultural lives of the people who lived in England’s urban centres. The calculator, as a tool, helps to show how figures exercised agency in navigating the legal and cultural structures of inclusion and exclusion: we find a stranger tracing the cultural and spiritual practices of her home country onto a new urban landscape, a merchant’s daughter establishing the wealth and power of her family through matrimony, and a second-generation migrant using the cultural authority of his alien inheritance to forge an extraordinarily versatile and productive career. Read more here!