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Nothing much has changed in the last 700 years in terms of classism in the UK. Tolkien was strictly middle class, and he probably placed a lot of importance on being learned. The aristocracy probably didn’t have the same concerns on bettering themselves. They’ve never had to worry about that side of things. He probably didn’t have enough foresight to see why working class people won’t know what he was studying. In other words he probably got to a comfortable age and in his comfortable job and forgot what it was like to not have those privileges. His own life was far from easy. But, he’s no longer alive, so we can only speculate as to what his actual thoughts and feelings were. I love how Diane Wynne Jones describes his fumbling, disorientating lectures!
 
Nothing much has changed in the last 700 years in terms of classism in the UK. T
Can I start by saying I'm very aware that this is a thread disruption but it's also a really interesting discussion...

I think a LOT has changed in the UK when it comes to class. Your 700 years suggests you're dating from the plague outbreaks of the mid C14 which effectively ended serfdom and gave working people bargaining power for the first time (which was possibly overreached during Wat Tyler's revolt).

To focus on just two issues... the army, at the start of the C19, was split into two parts - the officers, who were nobles and gentry, and the ranks - who were mainly the sweepings of the gaols and a whole bunch of other failures who were mainly there for the food and rum ration. The army was the main source of popular fame which is why it was attractive to the nobility.

You won't find many nobles (or gentry) in the army now (apart from token appearances by royals). Partly because we live in a different world where god and king (and empire) are less compelling, and partly because the locus of fame has changed.

Which brings me to my second issue. Fame, almost as much as money, is now the currency of worthiness. You can be born into any estate and still become famous and therefore adored by the many and sought out/lionised by the establishment.

So classism is still there but it's not so much about lineage and old money, these days. It's still about money but just as much about fame.

Just ask Posh and Becks.
 
I’m working with inspiration from the real world for my fantasy writing, mainly from at least 700 years ago, and I go further back than that for source material and themes. I’ve noticed that by looking at history and writing about it, that not much has changed.

You do in fact still have the landed gentry, or the remnants of them, still joining the armed forces, mainly as officers; there’s a reason they all get called ‘Ruperts’.

We still exist in a working-class serving the upper-class society, even though there’s slightly more social mobility and a chance for someone of working class origin to make their fortune, but other than that the basic structure is still very much in place. It’s a novelty for people like David Beckham to attend a Royal event. The cult of celebrity has always been around.
 
I’m working with inspiration from the real world for my fantasy writing, mainly from at least 700 years ago, and I go further back than that for source material and themes. I’ve noticed that by looking at history and writing about it, that not much has changed.

You do in fact still have the landed gentry, or the remnants of them, still joining the armed forces, mainly as officers; there’s a reason they all get called ‘Ruperts’.

We still exist in a working-class serving the upper-class society, even though there’s slightly more social mobility and a chance for someone of working class origin to make their fortune, but other than that the basic structure is still very much in place. It’s a novelty for people like David Beckham to attend a Royal event. The cult of celebrity has always been around.
But no-one was admitted to the cult of celebrity beyond the noble/landed gentry class until after WW2.

Even the famous actors of the C19 were prostitutes first and actors second - for the most part.
 

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But no-one was admitted to the cult of celebrity beyond the noble/landed gentry class until after WW2.

Even the famous actors of the C19 were prostitutes first and actors second - for the most part.
That's not true. There were numerous working class people who gained wealth and celebrity long before the world wars through sports. Boxing sure wasn't the domain of the gentry for instance. Some dabbled, but the greats were all salt of the earth.
 
That's not true. There were innumerable working class people who gained wealth and celebrity long before the world wars through sports. Boxing sure wasn't the domain of the gentry for instance. Some dabbled, but the greats were all salt of the earth.
True. But we're talking about a very tiny proportion and look at what they had to go through - on very rare occasions - to win popular acclaim.

Compare that, post-war, with the vast array of people who can win wealth and fame from anywhere. In the first world at least...

Even that is only something that started to happen in the C19 - not at all the full 700 years mentioned before.
 

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Agreed. We certainly have far more avenues nowadays, but it was indeed possible throughout history for the lucky, talented (foolhardy) few with an aptitude for the right discipline.
 
Agreed. We certainly have far more avenues nowadays, but it was indeed possible throughout history for the lucky, talented (foolhardy) few with an aptitude for the right discipline.
The unwashed were mostly famous for their deaths ... like Wat Tyler.
 
I don’t see how celebrities change much. You can’t buy class, as the old saying goes.
We're talking about where celebrities come from.

Herby the Potato Grower had no chance of becoming a celebrity 400 years ago but he probably has his own youTube channel these days.
 
We're talking about where celebrities come from.

Herby the Potato Grower had no chance of becoming a celebrity 400 years ago but he probably has his own youTube channel these days.
I think there has always been celebrities. Not just from sports but anyone who was deemed particularly enigmatic or who possessed a special skill that others would gather to observe or enjoy. I think there would have been ‘celebrities’ in ancient times, but just very localised. Anyone can build influence and draw attention to themselves no matter where they come from, they just have to be annoying or otherwise talented enough to do so.
 
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I think there has always been celebrities. Not just from sports but anyone who was deemed particularly enigmatic or who possessed a special skill that others would gather to observe or enjoy. I think there would have been ‘celebrities’ in ancient times, but just very localised. Anyone can build influence and draw attention to themselves no matter where they come from, they just have to be annoying or otherwise talented enough to do so.
OK, you've redefined celebrity to be local only (and unremembered) but that doesn't impact on the evolution of class... which is where this (very interesting) thread disruption started.

Herby the Potato Grower may have had some local celebrity but that would never have changed his class from a social mobility perspective.

My original point is that the class system in England has changed profoundly over the last 200 years. You don't have to be born into it anymore - you can sneak in the backdoor via money and fame to be upper class and even take on the trappings of class - like Becks and his Saville Row suits (and elocution lessons) or sending your kids to Eton.

Irvine Welsh describes himself as upper class these days.
 
I don’t think anything has fundamentally changed. Eton is still a school for children of toffs. If you’re a rock star, your kids might go to Beadles. If you’re upper class your kids will go to St Andrews to study History of Art, if you’re aspiring upper middle class, your kids mights reach for Oxbridge. These institutions now have the obligation to let the scum in as long as they can pay or be clever enough, but you betcha you’ll still be singled out as a peasant. There will always be those divides, and I still really don’t think anything has changed. England is still run by toffs and the ‘old money’ super elite, like the Rothschild’s. They ensure that no one else really gets a slice of that pie through self interested investments, and lever pulling. House and Gardens magazine is like a read through of all the landed gentry, all in each others pockets. You might get some super rich celebrity who moves in those circles, but in reality they are a novelty, not a real player. Fundamentally, nothing has changed at all.
 
Do you know all the ‘celebrities’ right now?

Besides there are quite a few people from antiquity and biblical times that we still very much remember today.
I actually detest and have very little interest in the "cult of celebrity" except from an anthropological sense.

My point remains - upward class mobility used to be just about impossible in the UK and regardless of whether the landed gentry still regard themselves as a closed shop, the indicia and trappings of class are open to anyone with enough money and power.

This is basically a reflection of the way it's been in Australia and the US for a long time - there is such a thing as old money but it means very little nowadays and is worth exactly the same as new money. Australia has a class system (as much as most Australians will tell you there isn't one), but it's based on wealth and you can definitely buy your way in.
 
My point remains - upward class mobility used to be just about impossible in the UK and regardless of whether the landed gentry still regard themselves as a closed shop, the indicia and trappings of class are open to anyone with enough money and power.
I think this is the point you’re not understanding - social mobility is not defined by money here. Footballers for example are mostly from working class backgrounds, and so they can own the big obnoxious house and all that comes with it, but that does not change their class status. There is of course an aspiring middle class, and that’s really been around for a long, long time, once based on title, maybe going from being a blacksmith to an attorney over a couple of generations, and now is far more based on education level, or ‘cultural capital’, but no one can buy their way into a different class. No one. Many of the aristocracy, or what’s left of them, don’t have any real cash flow. Most of their wealth is tied up in the estates and the land they sit on, and stubbornly they won’t let go of any of it. Land is at a premium in a country that doesn’t have much of it, and there are those few who own much of it, hundreds of acres of land. Much of it is not public bridleway, and so is not open for the common man to walk across. It is still like feudal times. France, by contrast, has an average amount of land ownership of around 15 acres. And France is much larger than England. There’s such a pervasive amount of greed in this country, and it’s mostly over land, and that goes back at least 700 years or more. There’s more than enough subtext I can throw at my fantasy world that is in part inspired by this culture.
 
It's an interesting discussion, though I get a slight feeling you're arguing past each other.

Old money is very much still a thing in much of europe. They really are a separate class in that sense. It's not always about land (though in the UK that's definitely a part of it). But it's also about the social circles these people move around in. They very much still do live within their own group. And though they're not as wealthy as they might once have been, they're often not poor, since they tend to help each other out in terms of getting into great schools and landing great (and often well-paying) jobs. They tend to be very well connected, and thus have an overly large influence on both politics and companies.

You can't buy your way into that, because it's not about money. Money is a consequence, not a cause of being Old Money. It's also not about fame. If anything, they tend to prefer to stay just outside the spotlights. It's about your heritage and who you know.

However, they are an insular thing. There is very much a completely separate class system that normal people follow. There money and fame and celebrity cult and all that do come into it. It's the New Money. This is rich atlethes, artists, and flashy entrepreneurs. They're very much separate from the old money group. But that doesn't mean they don't exists or that they don't have influence. I'm sure that if Bill Gates would call the leader of a medium sized African Country, then that leader would answer. And plenty of billionairs spend millions on lobying to get their way.

Now, this class has existed for a long time as well. They're the rich merchants and bankers of the past. Just look up Jakob Fugger. Their power and influence has waxed and waned over the centuries, depending on wars, needs for money of rulers, and so forth.

What is new perhaps is the middle class, and the power they wield. Perhaps less so in the UK, but in plenty of European countries more average middle class people rise to become political leaders. It's easier than ever to start a business which grows to be worth millions. So in that sense things have changed.
 
I don’t think anything has fundamentally changed. Eton is still a school for children of toffs. If you’re a rock star, your kids might go to Beadles. If you’re upper class your kids will go to St Andrews to study History of Art, if you’re aspiring upper middle class, your kids mights reach for Oxbridge. These institutions now have the obligation to let the scum in as long as they can pay or be clever enough, but you betcha you’ll still be singled out as a peasant. There will always be those divides, and I still really don’t think anything has changed. England is still run by toffs and the ‘old money’ super elite, like the Rothschild’s. They ensure that no one else really gets a slice of that pie through self interested investments, and lever pulling. House and Gardens magazine is like a read through of all the landed gentry, all in each others pockets. You might get some super rich celebrity who moves in those circles, but in reality they are a novelty, not a real player. Fundamentally, nothing has changed at all.
but you betcha you’ll still be singled out as a peasant.
That was precisely why I turned down a place at Cambridge in favour of Edinburgh for med school.

Posh and Becks have / had celebrity status and are wealthy. They are in an economic elite, but I would not regard them for a moment as upper class.

My UK-centric view of class is that it is about lineage, which as Finch says cannot be bought.
 
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