Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Question from Annabel - Rural life in 1520s

I'm writing a novel set in the 1520s: to be specific, it's set in rural England between March 1526 and September 1527, and has virtually nothing to do with either court, the monarchy, or the Reformation. Instead, it features the gentry and a supernatural love affair: Jane Austen, but set three hundred years back! And with vampires! (I'm really making it sound very coherent, aren't I?)

Unfortunately, as you can imagine, this has made doing research somewhat difficult. If I can find books with a more anthropological bent, they seem to mainly describe life at court and the romance between Henry and Anne, which is interesting, but not what I need.

I know that while writing it I'll have far more questions than I would feel comfortable bothering you with, so my question is this: can you recommend some books or websites for me to find more information? I'd be interested particularly in things like etiquette, how courtship was conducted, where/when people would have socialised with one another, and a typical day for a young member of the gentry living deep in the country (getting up times, how they filled the hours, etc). Daily life, essentially, for the large number of people in the sixteenth century who were not Henry VIII.
Thank you in advance for your help.



shtove said...

Can't think of a handbook for this topic.

Joan Thirsk is a good bet for material.

Historian of the enclosure of the commons, so she probably sets out data and narratives to describe 1520s society before the rentiers took control.

Maybe Duffy's Stripping of the Altars - religious practice before and during the reformation. He's also excellent, so there should be plenty of material.

Can you tell I think it has relevance today? Easy to think of a heroine and a villain!

kb said...

You might some interesting color about rural life in the Victoria County History series. These are texts that report local history through the ages based on place. So there is a text for most counties/shires. They are mostly available online at

Best of luck.

Puddleduck said...

Have you tried this link to British History ? It may help with defining areas, habits, local customs etc. from the period.
It is obviously very informative and I'm sure will be of some help.
Good Luck