The ‘middle sort of people’ is a social group that has been the subject of increased historical research in the last decade. Many studies have been written, and many definitions offered of the group, its identity, and its membership. As a result, these overlapping groups and contrasting methods of definition have caused the nature and identity of the group to remain elusive. This study charts the evolution of the historiography of the ‘middle sort’, and the many attempts to produce positive and accurate definitions of the group. It suggests that the identity of the ‘middle sort’ may, in fact, be more complex than is allowed for by existing studies, with different identities being adopted according to social context. It concludes that while the term ‘middle sort of people’ is an appropriate contemporary collective term for use by historians, it is much more problematic as a description of an active, cohesive social group in the early modern period.
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