The politics of Lent in early modern England

In 1538, in the midst of the Reformation in England, Henry VIII decided to provide new Lenten regulations. His intervention which relaxed some of the more stringent dietary prohibitions was not hastened by any religious change of heart but born out of a socio-economic problem – the skyrocketing price of fish during Lent and the consequent starvation of the poor. From hereon in, until the last Lenten proclamation of 1662, the matter of Lent became a battleground of warring economic and regional factions, disruptive religious ideologues, exasperated government officials and parliamentary intervention. Adding to the problem was the widespread evasion of the regulations both by the lower classes priced out of the Lenten market and by the wealthier segment of society able to buy their way out. This chapter traces the changing nature of Lenten proclamations, Privy Council orders and local regulations. In doing so it highlights the inability of the state to enforce its will on a reluctant population despite incessant cajoling, the evolving severity of Lenten punishments, failed attempts to devolve authority to the localities and the clash between the remnants of ‘Popish’ rituals and the new Protestant emphasis on state-sanctioned fast days.

in Connecting centre and locality
Political communication in early modern England

This collection of essays is set up to explore the dynamics of local/national political culture in seventeenth-century Britain, with particular reference to political communication. It examines the degree to which connections were forged between politics in London, Whitehall and Westminster, and politics in the localities, and the patterns and processes that can be recovered. The fundamental goal is to foster a dialogue between two prominent strands within recent historiography, and between the work of social and political historians of the early modern period. Chapters by leading historians of Stuart Britain examine how the state worked to communicate with its people and how local communities, often far from the metropole, opened their own lines of communication with the centre. The volume then is not meant to be an exhaustive study of all forms of political communication but it nevertheless highlights a variety of ways this agenda can be addressed. At present there is ongoing work on subscriptional culture across the nation from petitioning to Protestation, loyal addresses, lobbying and litigation to name but a few. It is hoped that this volume will provide a reminder of the gains to be made by placing political communication at the heart of both social and political history and to provide an impetus for further scholarship.

Abstract only

This chapter sets up the volume by exploring the historiography relating to the issues that provide its focus: the relationship between ‘centre’ and ‘locality’ in the early modern period, and the role of communication – including both print culture and manuscript transmission – within contemporary society. This involves reflecting on ideas and arguments regarding the ‘county community’, and on how historians have tackled crucial issues like the ‘social depth’ of politics, state formation and developments in parliamentary politics, as well as the print revolution, but it also involves suggesting that social and political historians have only rarely found ways of entering into a productive dialogue with each other on these crucial issues. Finally, it highlights the fruitful ways in which the chapters use explorations of communicative practices in order to rethink not just relations between centre and locality but also the ways in such terms ought to be conceptualised.

in Connecting centre and locality