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  • Series: Politics, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain x
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Patriarchy, piety, and singlehood in early Stuart England

A microhistory of a never-married English gentlewoman named Elizabeth Isham, this book centres on an extremely rare piece of women’s writing – a relatively newly discovered 60,000-word spiritual autobiography held in Princeton’s manuscript collections that she penned circa 1639. The document is among the richest extant sources related to early modern women, and offers a wealth of information not only on Elizabeth’s life but also on the seventeenth-century Ishams. Indeed, it is unmatched in providing an inside view of her family relations, her religious beliefs, her reading habits, and, most sensationally, the reasons why she chose never to marry despite desires to the contrary held by her male kin, particularly Sir John Isham, her father. Based on the autobiography, combined with extensive research of the Isham family papers now housed at the county record office in Northampton, the book recreates Elizabeth’s world, placing her in the larger community of Northamptonshire and then reconstructing her family life and the patriarchal authority that she lived under at her home of Lamport Hall. Restoring our historical memory of Elizabeth and her female relations, this reconstruction demonstrates why she wrote her autobiography and the influence that family and religion had on her unmarried state, reading, and confessional identity, expanding our understanding and knowledge about patriarchy, piety, and singlehood in early modern England.

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Education, piety and politics in early modern England

In mid-sixteenth-century England, many figures celebrated the achievements of the nation's few female humanists. This book is a study of five remarkable sixteenth-century women. It contextualizes the evidence of the sisters' reading, evaluates it against the prescription for both their male and female contemporaries, and discusses the role of the sisters themselves in directing their reading. Drawing particularly on the sisters' own writings, it demonstrates that the sisters' education extended far beyond that normally allowed for sixteenth-century women. The book challenges the view that women in this period were excluded from using their formal education to practical effect. The evidence of the Cooke sisters' political activities contributes to scholarship on later Tudor political culture. The Cooke sisters' classical learning allowed them opportunities with the written word, particularly in their activities as translators and poets. The book argues that the sisters were able to turn to their humanist education to provide them with strategies for bolstering their advice, particularly over issues of politics and religion, the most contentious areas for female counsel. It looks at the political agency demonstrated in Cooke sisters' correspondence by letters, demonstrating female detailed understanding of and contribution to issues central to Elizabethan politics. The contribution of the Cooke sisters provides another perspective on the key issues of Elizabethan diplomacy, the Queen's marriage and the political divisions of the 1590s. The book also offers a warning against the methodology of past research on the stereotype of the learned woman.

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Radical political thought in the English Revolution

The Leveller movement of the 1640s campaigned for religious toleration and a radical remaking of politics after the English civil war. This book challenges received ideas about the Levellers as social contract theorists and Leveller thought as a mere radicalization of parliamentarian thought, analysing the writings of the Leveller leaders John Lilburne, Richard Overton, and William Walywn to show that that the Levellers’ originality lay in their subtle and unexpected combination of different strands within parliamentarianism. The first part of the book offers a systematic analysis of different aspects of the Levellers’ developing political thought, considering their accounts of the origins of government, their developing views on the relationship between parliament and people, their use of the language of the law, and their understanding of the relationship between religious liberty and political life. Two concluding chapters examine the Levellers’ relationship with the New Model Army and the influence of the Levellers on the republican thought of the 1650s. The book takes full account of revisionist and post-revisionist scholarship, and contributes to historical debates on the development of radical and republican politics in the civil war period, the nature of tolerationist thought, the significance of the Leveller movement, and the extent of Leveller influence in the ranks of the New Model Army.

Abbey, court and community 1525–1640

Early modern Westminster is familiar as the location of the Royal Court at Whitehall, parliament, the law courts and the emerging West End, yet it has never been studied in its own right. This book reveals the often problematic relations between the diverse groups of people who constituted local society - the Court, the aristocracy, the Abbey, the middling sort and the poor - and the competing visions of Westminster's identity which their presence engendered. There were four parishes in Westminster at the turn of the sixteenth century. The parishes of St Martin's and St Margaret's have been identified as two of only eighteen English parishes for which continuous and detailed parish records survive for the turbulent period 1535-1570. Differences in social organization, administrative structure and corporate life in the two parishes also provide a study in contrasts. These crucial differences partly shaped forms of lay piety in each parish as well as their very different responses to the religious reformations of Henry VIII and his children. The death of Henry VIII heralded important changes in Westminster. Most strikingly, however, this was a period of major religious change, in stark contrast to the piecemeal changes of Henry's reign. The dissolution of Westminster's abbey gave rise to special problems. The book examines individuals who wielded the most influence at the local government; as well as the social identity of these parish elites. Finally, it explores the interaction of religion with the social and political developments observed in the post-Reformation town.

Gentry culture and the development of local history in Elizabethan and early Stuart England

People are fascinated by the past. It was in the Elizabethan and early Stuart period that the study of past became an interest of the many rather than the preserve of the few. This book presents a study concerned with the importance of history, and especially the history of their own families and localities, to the provincial gentry of Elizabethan and early Stuart England. The first section presents an overview of the development of local-history writing in England, from its medieval and Tudor beginnings through to the period under discussion. It explores the historiographical context within which the Elizabethan gentry began to explore and express their interest in the past. This section also explores the regional networks that supported the development of local history and how an individual's social and religious status influenced membership of such networks. The second section involves the major historiographical strands represented in local history: genealogical, didactic and topographical. demonstrate how the interests, reactions and concerns of their contributors and readers influenced the content of the works. The genealogical content of local history exhibits the importance of lineage to late Elizabethan and early Stuart society and to the gentry's sense of their identity and status. The behaviour expected of a gentleman was addressed by the didactic content of the works. Finally, the book considers the relationship between developments in cartography and local history, and how they were shaped by the expectations of their gentry consumers.

A royal city in a time of revolution

This book examines the varied and fascinating ways in which the series of non-monarchical regimes of England’s civil wars and interregnum interacted with the unique locality and community of Westminster. Westminster (as opposed to London) was traditionally viewed as the ‘royal’ city – the site of Whitehall Palace and the royal courts of justice, its Abbey reputed to be the ‘house of kings’, and its inhabitants assumed to be instinctive followers of the monarch and the royal court. Westminster emerges in this study as a site of extraordinary ambiguities and juxtapositions. The promoters of vigorous moral reformation and a sustained and often intrusive military presence coexisted uneasily with the area’s distinctive forms of elite sociability and luxury. The state’s foremost godly preachers performed in close proximity to royalist churchmen. More generally, the forces of political, religious and cultural conservatism can be observed on the very doorstep of parliament and non-monarchical regimes. Yet for Westminster as a whole, this was the time when the locality became tied to the state more tightly than ever before, while at key moments the town’s distinctive geography and local government played a significant role in shaping the political crises of the period. Chapters analyse the crisis of 1640-42, the use of Westminster’s iconic buildings and spaces by the non-monarchical regimes, the sustained military occupation of the locality, the problems of political allegiance and local government, the religious divisions and practices of the period, and the problematic revival of fashionable society in a time of political tension.

Information, court politics and diplomacy, 1618–25

This study examines how political news was concealed, manipulated and distorted in late Jacobean England. Using a wide range of extraordinarily rich manuscript sources, it analyses how news was managed and interpreted during a period of acute political and religious conflict. It analyses how the flow of information to and from the King was managed by his secretaries of state and diplomats, and how the King prevented information about his policies from leaking in to the wider public sphere. It analyses the ‘outward shows’ James made to signal his intentions and mislead a variety of audiences, as well as they ways in which these ‘performances’ could backfire and undermine royal authority. It also examines the sceptical and often cynical reception of news, and the political significance of the rumours that circulated in court and country. It thereby contributes to a wider range of historical debates that reach across the politics and political culture of the reign and beyond. It advances new arguments about censorship, counsel, and the formation of policy; propaganda and royal image-making; political rumours and the relationship between elite and popular politics, as well as shedding new light on the nature and success of James I’s style of rule. In doing so, it aims to examine news as a source of influence and even power in Jacobean England.

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Great Britain on the London stages under James VI and I

This book looks at the interrelationship between nationalism and theatre in the Jacobean period. It also looks at the creation of a British identity brought about by the accession of King James VI of Scotland to the English throne in 1603. The most significant political legacy of James's national project was the creation of an emphatically British identity among the settlers from both England and Scotland who planted Ulster. A series of plays in London's theatres was staging the lives of a group of earlier British rulers. The theatre of the Jacobean period does not rest on Shakespeare alone. What emerges in the study of the London stages in this period is that his work fits into a wider framework of dramatic material discoursing on not just the Union, but on issues of war, religion and overseas exploration. Under James VI and I, the discourse on empire changed to meet the new expansion overseas, and also the practicality of a Scottish king whose person fulfilled the criteria of King of 'Great Britain' in a way that Elizabeth never could. For James VI and I, Shakespeare's play was a celebration of the British imperium that seemed secure in the figures of Henry, Prince of Wales, Prince Charles and the Princess Elizabeth. The repertoire of the theatre companies suggests that in terms of public opinion there was a great deal of consensus regarding the direction of foreign policy.

Early modern England was marked by profound changes in economy, society, politics and religion. It is widely believed that the poverty and discontent which these changes often caused resulted in major rebellion and frequent 'riots'. This book argues for the inherently political nature of popular protest through a series of studies of acts of collective protest, up to and including the English Revolution. Authority was always the first historian of popular protest. Explaining the complex relationship between the poor and their governors, the book overviews popular attitudes to the law and the proper exercise of authority in early modern England. A detailed reconstruction of events centring on grain riots in the Essex port of Maldon in the crisis of 1629 is then presented. Urbanisation, regional specialisation and market integration were the larger changes against which disorder was directed between 1585 and 1649. The book discusses the 'four Ps', population growth, price rise, poverty and protest, explaining their connection with population explosion to poverty and protest. The major European revolts of the so-called 'Oxfordshire rising' are then analysed. Popular politics might deploy 'weapons of the weak' in a form of everyday politics that was less dramatic but more continuous than 'riot'. On the very eve of the Civil War, large crowds, with underemployed clothworkers, attacked and plundered the houses of local Catholics and proto-royalists among the nobility and gentry. In a culture that proscribed protest and prescribed obedience, public transcripts could be used to legitimise a popular political agency.

This book assesses the English national war effort during the Anglo-Spanish war (1585–1603), examining wartime government in a wide-ranging set of contexts. It looks first at political problems: the structure of the wartime state, popular attitudes to the war and the government’s efforts to influence them, resistance to demands, and the problems of governing a country divided in religion and a regime deeply fearful of the future. It then assesses the machinery in practice, looking at the work of the central regime under the Queen herself alongside the local government machinery of lord lieutenancies which carried the demands of the centre into the counties, towns and parishes of England. These mechanisms of rule were crucial to the success of the war effort, by providing troops to fight overseas, running the militia which defended against the Spanish Armada (1588) and other invasion attempts and paying for them both through local taxes. The book draws evidence and case studies from across the country and from politics and government at all levels, from the court and Privy Council to the counties and parishes, but it seeks to examine England as a single polity. In this way it ranges much more widely than the war alone and provides a new assessment of the effectiveness of the Elizabethan state as a whole. It challenges many existing assumptions about the weakness of the state in the face of military change, finding a political system in much better health than has previously been thought.