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What can inventories tell us?

Take a look at the people in the street or people appearing on the television or in the newspapers and magazines. Would you be able to say whether they were rich or poor or somewhere inbetween? The answer is probably yes. How can you tell? Well, you could make a guess by looking at their clothes, the type of car that they drive, the kind of house that they live in, the job that they do, even what kind of mobile phone they use. You might not be able to say exactly how much money they have but you would, for example, be able to tell that the Beckhams are richer than the members of McFly.

So how can you tell who was rich and poor in Tudor times? It's more difficult but you can look at the same kind of things. You can find out about people's clothes by looking at paintings from the period. Some paintings can also tell you about people's work, the houses that they lived in and how they entertained themselves. And there are still some Tudor houses such as Bolling Hall, Bradford and Palmer's Farm, Stratford-upon-Avon (formerly known as Mary Arden's house) which you can visit. Another thing you can use are historical records such as inventories.

The Inventory of Sir William Hilton, dated 1600.








Illustration taken from the Luttrell Psalter showing men moving a wagon.



An inventory is really just a list of all the property and possessions owned by a person or a company. If you rent a house or hire a holiday home you will often be given an inventory so you know what is in the property. In the past inventories could also be made when a person died to help their family and friends settle their estate. These inventories are now used by historians to tell them about life in the past. This is because they can tell us a lot about the life of the person. For example, the information in an inventory can tell you about the work a person did, the house they lived in and the clothes they wore.

We're going to use some inventories to find out about the lives of some Tudor People.

Start your investigation

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