the sons of pastors; in the years between 1680 and 1740 the proportion in Sweden was between 40 and 45 per cent. The social origins of the lower clergy of the Diocese of London during the eighteenth century conformed to this pattern: clergy 35.4 per cent; professions 30.6 per cent; plebeians 19.4 per cent; landed gentry 12.4 per cent; lesser nobility 1.2 per cent; schoolmasters 1 per cent. More generally in the Church of England the social status of recruits began to rise from the 1720s, owing to the increasing cost of university education and the pattern of self-recruitment. Though self-recruitment was important, studies that draw their examples from urban areas in Germany show that the clergy were just one part of the broader educated middle classes in urban areas, associated with legally trained office-holders in the state. Their position in this social group was consolidated through intermarriage that provided a ready-made structure for social and financial advancement.
It would be misleading to assume that the urban middle classes monopolized recruitment to the ranks of the Protestant clergy. Nicholas Hope has observed that after 1700 the majority of the Lutheran clergy of the German states and Scandinavia came from 'clergy families, better-off peasant farmers, the crafts, and a few civil servant families'. Both the lower and higher clergy were of 'extremely modest social background'. This accounts for the patterns of preferment and the provisions made for old age, as, for example, when a new incumbent would marry the widow or daughter of his predecessor in order to secure his financial future through the continuous occupation of the rectory and glebe. In Brandenburg-Prussia, 98 per cent of the clergy of the Lutheran state church were of 'rural commoner origin', while the remaining 2 per cent were from the lesser gentry. More significantly, the social backgrounds of nearly half the clergy in this region were not recorded, which suggests that their fathers may have been either artisans or peasants. The continued centrality of agriculture to the early modern economy was also reflected in patterns of recruitment in other areas. Given the minority status of the Anglican population in Ireland, the established church clung tightly to the Protestant state and local landed society. This link was reinforced by the lay appropriation of tithes and marriage patterns that resulted in, for instance, sixty-eight of the 118 beneficed clergymen in County Down either originating from landed society or marrying into it. In the Presbyterian-dominated northeast, of the 619 ministers who served the Synod of Ulster in the eighteenth century, 71 per cent were sons of farmers, 20 per cent sons of clergy, 4 per cent sons of merchants, 1 per cent of others, while 4 per cent were of unknown origin. It is clear from this summary that the clergy did not come from either the highest or lowest social groups within society but from the middling ranks
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