Samuel Fullerton
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Discipline and debauchery, 1654–59
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This chapter charts two divergent trends in interregnum political culture: on the one hand, a royalist turn toward drink, promiscuity and worldliness; on the other, a renewed attention to moral reform on behalf of the Cromwellian Protectorate. Both programs, it argues, were rooted in sexual politics. In print, royalist publicists concocted a medley of eroticised newssheets, prose romances and verse miscellanies in which the celebration of bodily excess was weaponised to challenge puritan hyper-moralism; in manuscript, meanwhile, loyalists scribblers circulated a vicious canon of anti-puritan libels in quiet resistance to the Cromwellian regime. In turn, Cromwell and his allies doubled down on their moralising self-representation by refiguring themselves as the defenders of England’s virgin liberty in the face of Stuart sexual tyranny. The chapter concludes with a survey of the sexual politics that surrounded the Quaker movement, which confronted anti-sectarian sexual slander with a candour that illustrated how far English sexual politics had come since the early 1640s. In the process, the Quaker debates of the later 1650s also captured just how central the post-Reformation context remained to English political culture on the eve of the Restoration.

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