Social structure of Britain

Social structure of Britain

The social structure of Britain has clearly changed with the centuries and it is difficult to adequately discuss the topic in a single article. However, there are specific class names, castes, and categories that are helpful to define.

General Social Castes

Some basic categories covering most of the population of Britain around the 17th century and arguably well before and after are as follows:


Unlike some other countries such as the USA, class in Britain is more a matter of values and behaviors such as accent, vocabulary, manners, style of dress and taste than purely money (Fox). Below is a description of the various social classes.

Upper Class

The Upper Class in Britain is statistically very small and consists of the peerage, gentry, and landowners. These people were traditionally the wealthiest in the land having inherited money and position. Typically they would speak with a Received Pronunciation accent (although this is changing (Fox))and been educated at public schools. Traditionally the upper class had a disdain for trade (Cooper)

Nouveau Riche

Nouveau riche are people from poorer backgrounds who have made money themselves in Business or Entertainment. They may retain the mannerisms of their original social group or may imitate the behavior of the traditional upper class by for instance sending their children to public school or taking elocution lessons (Satirised as Mr Nouveau Richards by Jilly Cooper). This group is characterised by ostentatious displays of conspicuous consumption (Fox)

Upper Middle Class

The Upper Middle class in Britain consists of the educated professionals who generally come from educated backgrounds (Fox). These people would traditionally speak with a Received Pronunciation Accent, been educated at Public Schools and Universities. Traditional jobs would include Barristers, Doctors, Army officers, Academics, senior Civil Servants or working as stockbrokers in the City of London (Cooper). A typical Mosaic geodemographic type for this group would be [ Cultural leadership] . An example of this type of person from British popular culture is the The Aga Saga Woman from the The Catherine Tate Show

piralist Meritocracy

This group was identified by Jilly Cooper in her book "Class" as people from working class or lower middle class backgrounds who gained an education at grammar school and university and have subsequently obtained professional or managerial jobs within companies or government. Jilly Cooper stated that these people are more likely to move geographically than the more local bourgeois "middle middle class". These people are less socially secure then the traditional upper middle class (Fox) and would speak in a mixture of accents depending on their origin. A typical Mosaic Geodemographic type for this group would be [ Corporate Chieftains]

The Middle Middle Class

The Middle middle class in Britain consists of bourgeois people from less educated backgrounds (satirised by Jilly Cooper as Howard Weybridge). These people would be less educated then the upper middle class and form pillars of local communities. They would speak in accents which are more provincial than RP and traditionally be less likely to attend university than the upper middle class (Fox). They would be engaged in owning and running local businesses or working for larger corporations as junior and middle management (Fox). Typical Mosaic geodemographic types would include [ Provincial Privilege] . The comedy character Margo Leadbetter is a satirical stereotype for this group.

The Lower Middle Class

The Lower Middle class in Britain consists of people in white collar jobs living in less prosperous suburbs. They would typically not have had a university education. These people would speak in local accents, although relatively mild. A shiboleth for people from this group is the use of the word "pardon" rather than "sorry" or "say again" when they have not been able to hear the other speaker (referred to as "Pardonia" by Kate Fox). Typical Mosaic Geodemographic types for this group would include [ Sprawling Subtopia] or for Successful British Asians [ Asian Enterprise] . The Comedy character Hyacinth Bucket is a satirical stereotype for this social group.

Mondeo Man

Mondeo Man was described by Kate Fox as a person employed in the private sector in a salesman or entry level management position who drives a company car such as a Ford Mondeo. These people would have had limited education and cultural aspirations (Fox), but are keen to "move up in the world" and are seen by politicians and marketers as representing Middle England. An example of a person from this social group in UK popular culture is Gareth Cheeseman

The Skilled working Class

These people would be in skilled blue collar jobs, traditionally in industry but in recent decades showing entrepeneurial development as the stereotypical white van man, or self employed contractors. (Fox). These people would speak in local accents and have limited educational attainment. Typical Mosaic types for this group include [ White Van Culture] or [ Affluent Blue Collar]

Traditional Working Class

These people would work in blue collar jobs with low incomes. They would typically have had low educational attainment and not value education (Cooper). Examples of Mosaic geodemographic groups for these people would be [ Coronation Street] or [ Rustbelt Resilience] An example of this social group from popular culture would be Jim Royle from The Royle Family.

The Poor

These people would typically be on low incomes and dependent on state benefits. Many would be in public housing or council estates. These people feel excluded from society (Fox) and typical Mosaic Geodemographic types for these people are [ Tower Block Living] or [ Sharing a stair case] An example of this social class from popular culture would be Derek Trotter from Only Fools And Horses, another example from British popular culture would be Frank Gallagher from Shameless.

ee also

*Income in the United Kingdom
*Poverty in the United Kingdom
*Mosaic (geodemography) - System designed to classify Britain by Postcode, into 11 main groups and 61 types.

Linguistics as class indicators

*U and non-U English - Social Vocabulary from the 1950s compiled by Nancy Mitford. U represented Upper & Upper middle class vocabulary of the time and Non-U represented lower middle class vocabulary.
*Received Pronunciation, Britain's prestige accent used by Upper Class and Upper Middle class people
*Standard English, the so-called Queen's English, Britain's prestige dialect used by Upper and Middle class people
*Estuary English - Traditionally a lower middle class accent from Southern England now more widely used and influencing RP
*Cockney - Traditionally the working class accent of London
*Mockney - A deliberate affectation of the working-class London (Cockney) accent by Middle class people to gain "street credibility"

UK Social Stereotypes

*Chav - Working class
*Essex Man - Skilled working class materialistic
*Ned - poor working class Scottish
*Rah - Upper to Upper middle class
*Scally - working class from North West England
*Sloane Ranger - Upper to Upper middle class
*White van man - Working class , Entrepreneurial
*Worcester woman - Lower middle to middle middle class


* [ David Cannadine,The Rise and Fall of Class in Britain]
* [ JP Somerville, University of Wisconsin page on early modern social class in Britain]
* [ Mosaic Geodemographics Summary]
* [ Article from The Times on Taste and class]
* [ Article from The Times - are we all Middle class now]
* [ Article from the Times - Can you buy your way into the Upper Class]
* [ Article from the Times]
* [ article from Daily Telegraph on social mobility]

*Jilly Cooper Class, A view from Middle England, 1979
*Kate Fox Watching the English,2004

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