This fascinating book - the first comprehensive study of reading and politics in early modern England - examines how texts of that period were produced and disseminated and how readers interpreted and were influenced by them. Based on the voluminous reading notes of one gentleman, Sir William Drake, the book shows how readers formed radical social values and political ideas as they experienced civil war, revolution, republic and restoration.
By analysing the strategies of Drake's reading practices, as well as those of several key contemporaries (including Jonson, Milton and Clarendon), Kevin Sharpe demonstrates how reading in the rhetorical culture of Renaissance England was a political act. He explains how Drake, for example, by reading and rereading classical and humanist works of Tacitus, Machiavelli, Guicciardini and Bacon, became the advocate of dissimulation, intrigue and realpolitik. Authority, Sharpe argues, was experienced, reviewed and criticised not only in the public forum but in the study, on the page and in the imagination, of early modern readers.
'Erudite, intelligent and fascinating ... a wonderful study of a subject central to the intellectual and cultural history of early modern England.' Anthony Grafton
Kevin Sharpe was director of the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies and professor of renaissance studies at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of 'The Personal Rule of Charles I', 'Selling the Tudor Monarchy' and 'Image Wars', all published by Yale University Press.