“All the rest ye must lade yourself”
The negotiation of power and social distance in personal correspondence can be expressed e.g. through deontic modality. By estimating the relative power of writer-recipient dyads and recreating their social network to estimate social distance, this paper attempts to create ways in which to study this phenomenon in more detail. The modal auxiliaries of obligation, <i>must</i> and <i>should</i>, expressing strong and medium strong deontic meanings, are used as a test case in the correspondence of sixteenth-century English wool merchants.