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Since the advent of industrialisation, this system has been in a constant state of revision, and new factors other than birth (for example, education) are now a greater part of creating identity in Britain.
Although definitions of social class in the United Kingdom vary and are highly controversial, most are influenced by factors of wealth, occupation and education.
Meanwhile, the complex British middle-classes had also been enjoying a long period of growth and increasing prosperity, and achieving political power at the national level to a degree unusual in Europe.
They avoided the strict stratification of many Continental middle-classes, and formed a large and amorphous group closely connected at their edges with both the gentry and aristocracy and the labouring classes.
Prior to the eighteenth century, one did not speak of class or classes.
Pudding is interchangeable for us in chez Boris - either signifying something lacking a certain degree of solidity, yet high in sugary goodness, and also for desserts in general.
British society, like its European neighbours and most societies in world history, was traditionally (before the Industrial Revolution) divided hierarchically within a system that involved the hereditary transmission of occupation, social status and political influence.
In particular the great financial centre of the City of London was open to outsiders to an unusual degree, and continually expanding and creating new employment.
The British working class, on the other hand, was not notable in Europe for prosperity, and Early Modern British travellers often remarked on the high standard of living of the farm-workers and artisans of the Netherlands, though the peasantry in other countries such as France were remarked on as poorer than their English equivalents.