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Local Consciousness in Renaissance England

  • John M. Adrian
Part of the Early Modern Literature in History book series (EMLH)

Abstract

In the past fifty years, the main proponents of early modern local identity have been, not surprisingly, local historians. In following H. P. R. Finberg’s famous charge to portray the ‘origin, growth, decline, and fall of a local community,’ local historians have produced numerous studies of particular villages, parishes, and hundreds.1 These studies have been invaluable in revealing what provincial life was like in a variety of places. While some historians have been content to focus solely on a few square miles, others — like Eamon Duffy and David Underdown — have endeavored to show how national events like the Reformation and Civil War played out in particular local communities.2 More recently, scholars have begun to rethink some of the basic terminology — like ‘identity’ and ‘community’ — on which Local Studies has been built. One point of emphasis has been to attempt to identify the boundaries of the local community. Suggestions range from the relatively large (county) to the medium-sized (hundred) to the small (parish or village).3 Others have eschewed ‘artificial’ administrative units in favor of more natural divisions like landscape or agricultural regions.4 Christopher Lewis, however, has argued that the single-community approach ignores the complexity of individual identity, which is actually best imagined as a series of ‘concentric circles’ that radiate outward.5

Keywords

Seventeenth Century Sixteenth Century Local Identity Local Place Early Modern Period 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    H. P. R. Finberg, ‘The Local Historian and His Theme,’ in The Changing Face of English Local History, ed. R. C. Richardson (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2000), 115. Originally published as The local historian and his theme; an introductory lecture delivered at the University College of Leicester, 6 November 1952 (University College of Leicester, 1954).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Eamon Duffy, The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001); David Underdown, Fire From Heaven: Life in an English Town in the Seventeenth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    James Horn, for instance, has written convincingly of the integrity of the hundred (an administrative unit that encompasses several parishes) in Adapting to a New World (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 78–84, 118–119. Many writers have asserted the existence of self-conscious gentry ‘county communities’ prior to and during the Civil War. See, for example, Anthony Fletcher, A County Community in Peace and War: Sussex 1600–1660 (New York: Longman, 1975).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Alan Everitt, Landscape and Community in England (London: Hambledon Press, 1985); and Joan Thirsk, Agricultural Regions and Agrarian History in England, 1500–1750 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1987).Google Scholar
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    Everitt, Landscape and Community, 1. For more on the diversity and insularity (which titles I borrow for this section heading) of early modern English communities, see Everrit’s Change in the Provinces: The Seventeenth Century (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1969), 6–12.Google Scholar
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    The most probable date is 1612. There is also evidence that Dover ‘improved or re-created’ existing games rather than starting from scratch. See Christopher Whitfield, Robert Dover and the Cotswold Games (Evesham, Worcs.: The Journal Press, 1962), 13–15.Google Scholar
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© John M. Adrian 2011

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