This information was last updated in 2004. The Tudors have not changed, but our understanding of them might!
In Tudor times, most people lived in the countryside. Life was very hard, and there was increasing unemployment. Landowners began to keep sheep rather than grow corn, and this meant that they needed fewer workers. Many people moved to towns and cities in hope of a better life for themselves and their families.
Most people in London worked in various industries making and selling goods. There were button-makers, bookbinders, saddle-makers, goldsmiths, carpenters, armourers and many other trades. Londoners also had the opportunity to learn new trades and crafts, such as watchmaking, from foreign immigrants. Most manufacturers sold their goods directly to the public from shops at the front of their houses.
The different trades organised themselves into guilds or livery companies. They got their name because their senior members were entitled to wear special clothes called livery. These groups regulated training, maintained standards and helped members in times of need. The twelve largest guilds, headed by the mercers, were extremely rich and powerful.
In order to enter a company you had to start as an apprentice. If you successfully completed your apprenticeship, you became a member of the company and a freeman of the City of London. Those who could raise the money could set up their own businesses and eventually even become liverymen. Others became paid journeymen and worked for someone else.
For those without a skilled trade, there was plenty of work along the Thames, loading and unloading ships, barges and boats. The Port of London stretched from the Tower to Baynard's Castle near St Paul's. Wealthy merchants imported goods from all over Europe, including fur, wine, spices, carpets and silk. The ships were then loaded with English goods for export, such as woollen cloth or pewter.
If you did not want to work at the docks, you might become a water carrier, selling fresh water, or an ostler, caring for horses. You could even get a job as an actor at one of the new theatres!