The World of Rural Dissenters, 1520-1725

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There has been dispute amongst social historians about whether only the more prosperous in village society were involved in religious practice. A group of historians working under Dr. Spufford's direction have produced a factual solution to this dispute by examining the taxation records of large groups of dissenters and churchwardens, and have established that both late Lollard and post-Restoration dissenting belief crossed the whole taxable spectrum. We can no longer speak of religion as being the prerogative of either 'weavers and threshers' or, on the other hand, of village elites. The group also examined the idea that dissent descended in families, and concluded that this was not only true but that such families were the least mobile population group so far examined in early modern England - probably because they were closely knit and tolerated in their communities. The cause of the apparent correlation of 'dissenting areas' and areas of early by-employment was also questioned. The group concludes that travelling merchants and carriers on the road network carried with them radical ideas and dissenting print, the content of which is examined, as well as goods. In her own substantial chapter Dr. Spufford draws together the pieces of the huge mosaic constructed by her team of contributors, adds radical ideas of her own, and disagrees with much of the prevailing wisdom on the function of religion in the late seventeenth century. Professor Patrick Collinson has contributed a critical conclusion to the volume. This is a book which breaks new ground, and which offers much original material for ecclesiastical, cultural, demographic, and economic historians of the period.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
" absorbing and engaging collection of essays about much more than religious dissent in early modern England." Canadian Journal of History

"Such a richly textured and nuanced work could only be done in a country where the level of historical interest and sophistication is high, the scholars involved are known to and respected by each other, and where there is a press like Cambridge's willing to devote major resources to its publication. All involved richly deserve thanks and congratulations....This is an excellent book, densely researched, cogently presented, yet quite readable and informative. Any student dealing with the social background of religion in early modern England will have to come to terms with it. And we will all know more when they do." H. Larry Ingle, H-Net Book Review

"...although the work is intended for a scholarly audience, it is easily accessible to a general reader interested in understanding better the social effects of early modern dissent." History

"...comes together quite nicely into an integrated whole although its various essays are also capable of standing on their own....Overall, this book is an outstanding piece of collaborative historical research." Ronald Fritze, Sixteenth Century Journal

"This is a provocative book which will obviously provoke rethinking of assumptions about the religious sectarians." Seventeenth-Century News

"This is a rich, diffuse, and suggestive collection of fifteen essays by ten contributors arranged in ten chapters." Albion

"...this is a fascinating book and deserves to be widely read." William B. Robison, The Journal of Modern History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521410618
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/11/2008
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Table of Contents

List of plates
List of maps
List of tables
Notes on contributors
List of abbreviations
1 The importance of religion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
The social and economic spectrum of religious belief 1
The distribution of dissent, by-employment, and communications 40
'I bought me a primer', or, 'How godly were the multitude?'
The basic religious concepts of those who could read in the seventeenth century 64
The importance of the Lord's Supper to dissenters 86
2 The social and economic status of the later Lollards 103
3 A gathered church? Lollards and their society 132
4 The origins, function, and status of the office of churchwarden, with particular reference to the diocese of Ely 164
5 The gravestone of Thomas Lawrence revisited (or the Family of Love and the local community in Balsham, 1560-1630) 208
6 Piety in the pedlar's pack: continuity and change, 1578-1630 235
7 The mobility and descent of dissenters in the Chiltern Hundreds
Communications and the continuity of dissent in the Chiltern Hundreds during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries 273
The descent of dissenters in the Chiltern Hundreds 288
The comparative mobility and immobility of Lollard descendants in early modern England 309
8 The social and economic status of post-Restoration dissenters, 1660-1725 332
9 The social integration of post-Restoration dissenters, 1660-1725 360
10 Critical conclusion 388
App. A : The impossibility of tracing dissent through time in thirty-six parishes on the Essex, Cambridgeshire, and Suffolk borders 397
App. B : The parishes investigated for details of the genealogies of the nineteen families searched for in the Chilterns, and the genealogies of the Bartlet, Butterfield, Dell, Harding, Nash, Tredway, Gate, Nash and Child, Child of Coleshill, Randall, and West families 401
Index of contemporary names 431
General index 444
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