The formation of masculine identities in landed gentry men was a continual and lifelong process from childhood to adulthood, one that never reached a conclusion. Social status was not merely inherited by gentry men at birth, it was dependent on the attainment of manliness learnt and practiced through family, education, travel, relationships, and their working lives. The power of the gentry depended as much on their achievement of manliness as it did on their ownership of land or political office. Such experiences were never straightforward and were inherently social and relational. The construction of masculinity was practised, negotiated, contested and constantly managed by the male individual and by a wide range of institutions, relatives and associates, and it was experienced in a variety of contexts at different points in the life cycle, contextual shifts which, themselves, altered definitions of acceptable masculinity. Some men rested easy and confident in their manly achievements at various points in their lives, whilst others endlessly struggled to attain what they, and others, considered to be manly.
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