For a ‘leisure class’ such as the English landed gentry ‘working life’ may seem an oxymoronic choice of theme.1 The gentry were socially conspicuous due to the great wealth and privilege they inherited at birth. Such rentier wealth, accrued through ownership of a landed estate and the rental of land for farming rather than the exertions of business or professional careers, was perfectly suited to this leisured lifestyle, particularly if the family were wealthy enough to employ agents and stewards to manage their estates. However, for several reasons work, industry and exertion were very important both for the social and the gender status of gentry men across this period.
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