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Author: John Walter

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.

Eamon Darcy

9 • The confederate Catholics of Ireland and popular politics eamon darcy On 12 July 1643 Richard Bourke, a former schoolmaster and rector living in Enniskillen, co. Fermanagh, appeared before two fellow Church of Ireland clergymen who sat on the ‘commission for the despoiled subject’. His account of the wars of the 1640s reveals the challenges of using the 1641 depositions as historical evidence. Bourke recounted that he lost £900 as a result of the rebellion and that he had heard of ‘the burning and killing of one hundred Protestants’ in Tully Castle among

in Ireland in crisis
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Reconstructing popular political culture in early modern England
John Walter

Introduction . Reconstructing popular political culture in early modern England The meaner sort of people [are] always apt to rebel and mutiny on the least occasion.1 W hen I began my doctoral studies on popular protest in early modern England, the received wisdom was that there was a lot of it about, but that – major rebellions aside – this did not amount to much in terms of broader political significance. Echoing contemporary comments, this relative neglect reflected a belief that such small-scale protests were endemic to early modern society and, as

in Crowds and popular politics in early modern England
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Popular culture and popular protest in early modern England
John Walter

Chapter 1 . Crown and crowd: popular culture and popular protest in early modern England I I n early modern England, authority was always the first historian of popular protest. This has meant that popular political beliefs have to be recovered from the distorting pen of the contemporary magistrate. It is of course a truism that such records tell the historian more about the attitudes and anxieties of authority rather than the thoughts and actions of those engaged in protest. The dangers of such distortion should be obvious, at least since Richard Cobb exposed

in Crowds and popular politics in early modern England
John Walter

Corn extracted … out of ye booke published by your L[ordships] the last year, butt in that vaine & undiscreet manner as that therby the poor may aggravate their grief & take occasion of soon discontentment’.1 The episode encapsulates the argument of this chapter. Deloney’s ballad spoke to a popular political culture in which the monarch was seen as a natural defender of the poor, and where legitimation for popular protest was derived from government measures designed to anticipate and address popular grievances. Although Deloney was threatened with imprisonment, in

in Crowds and popular politics in early modern England
The Oxfordshire rising of 1596
John Walter

31/8/06 09:02:13 Popular politics in early modern England to commemorate the royal visit) depicting Elizabeth standing on a map of England dispelling heavenly storms, events in north Oxfordshire in 1596 were to suggest that Ditchley was not a happy spot upon which to place Astraea’s feet.3 II In 1596, England was facing a third year of harvest failure. On the eve of the harvest, a correspondent confided to Burghley, ‘I greatly feare that this yeere wylbe the hardeste yeare for the poore people, that hath happened in anie man’s memory’. Successive years of dearth

in Crowds and popular politics in early modern England
John Walter

excluded this case. Excluded from consideration here are a handful of incidents which require discussion at greater length, because the evidence suggests that the legal charge of ‘riot’ did not refer to acts of collective protest. Official reports of disorder present other problems. Those in authority too readily translated the threat of disorder into its occurrence, but, on occasion, 67 Walter_04_Ch3.indd 67 31/8/06 08:59:40 Popular politics in early modern England reports also make it clear that crowds might assemble over a number of days (‘daily flocke togeather

in Crowds and popular politics in early modern England
Maldon and the crisis of 1629
John Walter

alarm sometimes shown by the authorities when confronted by the licence of the unruly crowd, their response to riot was more subtle and less clear-cut than might otherwise have been predicted. In their use of the law, the authorities displayed a sensitivity to circumstance and context which casts doubt on some 27 Walter_03_Ch2.indd 27 31/8/06 08:59:00 Popular politics in early modern England of the more extreme emphases on magisterial helplessness and consequent wrath in the face of popular disorder. The delicacy which could characterise authority’s handling of

in Crowds and popular politics in early modern England
John Walter

-relief and, where 125 Walter_06_Ch5.indd 125 31/8/06 09:02:53 Popular politics in early modern England foreign grain had to be imported, could have an adverse effect on the terms of trade. Directly, harvest failure might cause a drop in the state’s revenues, while indirectly, where harvest failure coincided with attempts to extend the tax base (as in the 1590s and later 1640s), it could provoke opposition to the state’s fiscal demands.13 Directly, it led to riots over food supply, while, indirectly, it might synchronise other forms of opposition, for example to enclosure

in Crowds and popular politics in early modern England
A world turned upside-down?
John Walter

many-headed monster. In the century before 1640, the population of the country had almost doubled. Directly, population growth had led to land shortage and landlessness, a trend exacerbated by the engrossing of land by landlords and richer farmers. Indirectly, the failure of agriculture to keep the food supply in step with the population increase led to inflation and a decline in wages. For anything between 181 Walter_07_Ch6.indd 181 31/8/06 09:03:33 Popular politics in early modern England one-third and a half of the population, these changes brought a greater

in Crowds and popular politics in early modern England