Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England / Edition 1

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From childbirth and baptism through to courtship, weddings, and funerals, every stage in the lifecycle of Tudor and Stuart England was accompanied by ritual. Even under the Protestantism of the reformed Church, the spiritual and social dramas of birth, marriage, and death were graced with elaborate ceremony. Powerful and controversial protocols were in operation, shaped and altered by the influences of the Reformation, the Revolution, and the Restoration.

Each of the major rituals was potentially an arena for argument, ambiguity, and dissent. Ideally, as classic rites of passage, these ceremonies worked to bring people together. But they also set up traps into which people could stumble, and tests which not everybody could pass. In practice, ritual performance revealed frictions and fractures that everyday local discourse attempted to hide or to heal.
Using fascinating first-hand evidence, David Cressy shows how the making and remaking of ritual formed part of a continuing debate, sometimes strained and occasionally acrimonious, which exposed the raw nerves of society in the midst of great historical events. In doing so, he vividly brings to life the common experiences of living and dying in Tudor and Stuart England.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Provide[s] current scholarly insights into early modern England. . . .Cressy's study of the life style in Tudor-Stuart England should be read by all serious students of the period interested in history from the bottom up. This work remains entertaining while depicting the pace of social change in the ordinary activities of real people and the divisive social issues that caused conflict among the 16th- and 17th-century English. Cressy provides solid evidence of the key importance ritual played as society coped with implementing the Reformation, and he demonstrates his scholarly depth by a judicious recognition of the diversity of experiences and viewpoints found in early modern England."—Library Journal

"[A] remarkable book....Highly recommended."—Choice

"...A masterly summary of the ways in which these past people are the same as us and separated from us..."—The Observer Review

"David Cressy has given us a blockbuster, which immediately becomes the staple work upon its subject. Birth, Marriage, and Death is a massive compendium of information, showing what persisted and what altered in the rites associated with the life cycle and their social setting between 1540 and 1700...its material is so extensive and often so novel in itself that it opens a door on a lost world of experience, dispelling popular myths and removing areas of scholarly ignorance."—History

"...remarkable book...Highly recommended."—Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198207887
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 664
  • Lexile: 1590L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Cressy is Professor of History at California State University, Long Beach. His recent books include Religion and Society in Early Modern England and Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England.

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Table of Contents

1. Childbed Mysteries: God's Babies: The Spiritual Construction of Childbirth; Comforts for Childbearing Women; Suffering and Death; The Archers: A Family History
2. The Management of Childbirth: Books for the Birth of Mankind; Signs of Conception; Care of the Expectant Mother; Abortion; Preparations for the Birth Room
3. Childbed Attendants: Reputable Midwives; Midwives and Ministers; Midwives in Action; Bastard Births
4. Mother and Child: The Woman in the Straw; Childbed Gossips; The Blessings of the Breast; The Wetnurse and the Martyr
5. Baptism as Sacrament and Drama: Questions of Contention; Timing, Refusal and Neglect; Liturgy; Theology; Lost Souls; Baptism by Women
6. Crosses in Baptism: The Sign of the Cross; Elements and Substances; Dipping and Sprinkling; Fonts and Basins
7. The People with the Children: Parents and Godparents; Naming the Child; Chrisom Cloths and Christening Sheets; Christening Cheer
8. Changes and Challenges: Baptism in Times of Distraction, 1642-1660; Baptism after the Restoration; The Rise of Private Baptism
9. Purification, Thanksgiving, and the Churching of Women: Viewpoints; Gossippings; Green Women; Blessing and Cleansing; Complaints and Objections; Rates and Fees; Cases and Collisions; Decent Veils; "Julia's Churching"; Churching continued, 1645-1700; Multiple Meanings
10. Courtship and the Making of Marriage: Courtship Narratives; Making a Match; Choice and Consent; Mutual Love and Good Liking; Gifts and Tokens
11. Espousals, Betrothals and Contracts: Cementing an Engagement; Carnal Knowledge
12. Holy Matrimony: Transformations; Problems and Questions; God's Weddings
13. Prohibitions and Impediments: Forbidden Seasons; Banns and Licences; Impediments; Prohibited Degrees; Religious Restrictions
14. Clandestine and Irregular Marriages: Canonical Hours; Clandestine Weddings; "Living together as man and wife"; After the Restoration
15. Nuptial Vows: The Solemnization of Matrimony; Giving the Bride; The Ring in Marriage; The Accustomed Duty
16. Wedding Celebrations: Festive Excess; Hymen's Revels; Wedding Gear; Bridal Flowers; Giving and Bidding; Bridal Processions; Acts of Piety and Mirth; Possets and Stockings
17. Death Comes for All: Body and Soul; Ars Moriendi; Grief
18. Ritual and Reformation: The Order for Burial of the Dead; Persistent Tradition; Puritan Criticism; Ceremonial Discipline; The War on Pomp; Revolution and Restoration
19. Funerals and Burials: For Whom the Bell Tolls; Winding and Watching; Furnishings and Equipment; Funeral Processions; Mourning Black; Doles and Dinners; The Triumph of Pomp
20. The Geography of Interment: Fees and Dues; Places of Honour; The Dormitory of Christians; Markers and Memorials
Conclusion: Centres and Peripheries; Public and Private; Social and Spiritual; Stories within Stories; Men and women; Problems and changes; Reformation, Revolution and Restoration

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