Thought the modern economic social ladder is easier to climb now? Well, think again. According to a study at the "University of California" (unspecified as to which UC by the article), it was easier to become upwardly mobile in the Middle Ages than it is now. I realize that most people think just the opposite, that opprotunities to better oneself were few and far between and that you were doomed to accept your lot in life. But that was untrue. Any man--or woman, for that matter--could move up the social scale by marrying the right person or by sly economic dealings.
Today, surprisingly, there's a bit more snobbery when it comes to the classes.
"The huge social resources spent on publicly provided education and health have seemingly created no gains in the rate of social mobility," said professor Gregory Clark.
"The modern meritocracy is no better at achieving social mobility than the medieval oligarchy. Instead that rate seems to be a constant of social physics, beyond the control of social engineering."
...From the Domesday Book in 1086 until recently, academics found that English society showed "complete long-run social mobility", meaning there were no permanent classes of rich or poor.
So, still think the Middle Ages were "darker"? You can read the brief article here.
And as a side note, according to another similar article, if you have a surname descended from Norman ancestors like Darcy and Mandeville, you are still wealthier than the general population 1,000 years after their ancestors conquered Britain. If you have artisanal names like Cooper or Smith, you are still less wealthy than your Norman surnamed counterparts. See it here.