Diet, luxury and social identity in England, 1540-1640
thesisposted on 2010-04-09, 11:15 authored by Paul Steven Lloyd
This thesis investigates social status and the perception of social identity in England between 1540 and 1640 by examining the extent to which individuals and communities identified themselves by what and how they ate. It focuses on determining whether people during the century saw a connection between the consumption of food and perceptions of 'self' and 'otherness', and also looks at whether luxurious and fashionable foods were consumed in order to construct and project images relating to social distinction. The main part of the study is divided into three sections in which the diets of various social groups, special foods and their preparation, and festive events and the gifting of foods are analysed for their social and cultural meaning. The main sources used are sets of household accounts belonging to the nobility and gentry living over a broad area of the country. The method employed is analysing and comparing patterns of food acquisitions, and supplementing this evidence with records of provisions at public institutions, contemporary comment, and other relevant documentary sources. By investigating trends in consumption and what constituted luxury foods it is shown that there was a clear link between ideas relating to social status and the foods that people ate and expected others to eat.