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Remaking English Society

Remaking English Society: Social Relations and Social Change in Early Modern England

Steve Hindle
Alexandra Shepard
John Walter
Volume: 14
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Remaking English Society
    Book Description:

    A tribute to the work of Keith Wrightson, Remaking English Society re-examines the relationship between enduring structures and social change in early modern England. Collectively, the essays in the volume reconstruct the fissures and connections that developed both within and between social groups during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Focusing on the experience of rapid economic and demographic growth and on related processes of cultural diversification, the contributors address fundamental questions about the character of English society during a period of decisive change. Prefaced by a substantial introduction which traces the evolution of early modern social history over the last fifty years, these essays (each of them written by a leading authority) not only offer state-of-the-art assessments of the historiography but also represent the latest research on a variety of topics that have been at the heart of the development of 'the new social history' and its cultural turn: gender relations and sexuality; governance and litigation; class and deference; labouring relations, neighbourliness and reciprocity; and social status and consumption. STEVE HINDLE is W. M. Keck Foundation Director of Research at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. ALEXANDRA SHEPARD is Reader in History, University of Glasgow. JOHN WALTER is Professor of History, University of Essex.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-104-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations, Figures, Maps and Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  7. 1 The Making and Remaking of Early Modern English Social History
    (pp. 1-40)
    Steve Hindle, Alexandra Shepard and John Walter

    There cannot be a ‘new history’ in quite the sense that Einstein founded a ‘new physics’. … Nevertheless the shift of interest towards inquiries of the sort which are reported with such brevity and sketchiness in this book, ought perhaps to be called a new branch of history.

    The phrase ‘sociological history’ has been occasionally used here … as its title…. This is mainly to register a distinction in subject matter, for confessedly historical writing has not previously concerned itself with births, marriages and deaths as such, nor has it dwelt so exclusively on the shape and development of social...

  8. 2 Brokering Fatherhood: Illegitimacy and Paternal Rights and Responsibilities in Early Modern England
    (pp. 41-64)
    Alexandra Shepard

    The ‘family’ has been consistently central to Keith Wrightson’s ongoing interrogation of the interconnectedness of daily life with broader social trends in early modern England. English Society contains one of the most nuanced accounts of the practice of patriarchy in seventeenth-century English households, explaining how the complex bonds of authority, dependence and reciprocity between spouses and between parents and children contributed to the ‘enduring structures’ of the seventeenth century.¹ Wrightson does not portray early modern family life as unchanging, however. While he rejects a unilinear model of change associated with narratives of modernisation, he remains sceptical of arguments that solely...

  9. 3 Gender, Sexuality and the Consumption of Musical Culture in Eighteenth-Century London
    (pp. 65-88)
    Helen Berry

    The craze for Italian opera started in England in the early 1700s and it continued to be popular with many adaptations and local appropriations throughout the century. It presented the English with a dazzling new form of foreign entertainment. In the long term, opera in its various forms was to make a substantial contribution to the development of diverse social, cultural and economic activities within the burgeoning leisure sector in the metropolis and leading provincial towns throughout the British Isles. The stars of eighteenth-century opera were Italian castrati – male singers who had been castrated as boys to preserve their...

  10. 4 Where was Mrs Turner? Governance and Gender in an Eighteenth-Century Village
    (pp. 89-112)
    Naomi Tadmor

    On Wednesday 5 May 1756, several members of the parish vestry of East Hoathly, Sussex, met together at the public house to discuss important affairs. The main item on the agenda concerned the ‘putting out’ of pauper children, one of the chief duties of parochial care, initially stipulated some 211 years earlier.¹ The public meeting of 5 May was duly announced at the local church on a preceding Sunday.² The authority of the parishioners involved (who included the local shopkeeper, the butcher, a victualler, and two farmers) was strongly reflected in their words. They agreed to put out one pauper...

  11. 5 Local Arithmetic: Information Cultures in Early Modern England
    (pp. 113-134)
    Paul Griffiths

    Chester, 1626, and civic leaders had yet another problem to deal with. This time the cause was not a new wave of vagrants or unwelcome ‘strangers’ but one of their own. Gaps in the city records had come to light and the town clerk – Robert Brerewood – was the villain of the piece, although his ‘underclerkes’ also had to face the music. A string of complaints about ‘uncivel’ Brerewood claimed that he had been rude to a few mayors in a row and also to justices sitting at Chester’s Quarter Sessions. He had not been doing his job by...

  12. 6 Intoxicants and the Early Modern City
    (pp. 135-164)
    Phil Withington

    In early 1629 Elizabeth Sanderson sued Alice Wilkinson for defamation in the church courts. Both women ran alehouses in Stonegate, York, with their respective husbands (William Wilkinson and Ralph Sanderson). Elizabeth Sanderson’s main witness was her cousin, Anthony Carthorne. He deposed that in August 1628, Alice Wilkinson had sent for him at her alehouse, ostensibly about money he owed her but really to challenge him over her husband’s recent arrest ‘at the suit of Ralph Sanderson’. Thomas Prainge, a shoemaker then ‘drinking two pots of ale’, described how Alice Wilkinson told Carthorne ‘you have now gotten your desire, for you...

  13. 7 Food, Drink and Social Distinction in Early Modern England
    (pp. 165-188)
    Adam Fox

    In almost all human societies, access to the resources necessary to sustain life is one of the defining expressions of rank. The extent to which individuals and groups are able to satisfy their most basic requirements for food and drink are as sure an indication as any of their place within the hierarchy of wealth and esteem. In many communities, both the quantity and the quality of essential consumption serve not only to express but also to create those fine grains of distinction and difference upon which caste systems or class structures are built.¹

    In early modern England the food...

  14. 8 Written Obligations, Litigation and Neighbourliness, 1580–1680
    (pp. 189-210)
    Tim Stretton

    Elizabethans and Jacobeans living through the most dramatic per capita increase in litigation levels in English history lamented the weakening of personal and community relations that growing litigiousness both produced and embodied. In 1576 a parliamentary bill complained of the ‘multitude of contentions which for lack of charity rise upon the smallest occasions between neighbours’, while in 1626 Walter Cary identified the ‘infinite number of suits’ at law as one of the three ills of the age that had grown dramatically over his lifetime.¹ To those observers who regarded rising prices for foodstuffs and a growing tendency for creditors to...

  15. 9 Witchcraft and Neighbourliness in Early Modern England
    (pp. 211-232)
    Malcolm Gaskill

    The history of witchcraft as a crime in England maps roughly onto the early modern period as a whole. Exactly how many suspected witches were prosecuted between 1542 and 1736 is unknown; we can only extrapolate from where records are most complete. An estimated 1,000 trials, spread over two centuries and 9,000 parishes, suggests that it would have been rare to experience one directly. Some places, notably in Essex, indicted scores of witches; many more did not. Despite the persistent notion that villagers routinely used accusations to explain misfortunes and attack enemies, the numbers speak for themselves.¹ Perhaps, then, witchcraft...

  16. 10 Deference, Paternalism and Popular Memory in Early Modern England
    (pp. 233-254)
    Andy Wood

    The poetry of John Clare, the most articulate voice of the rural working class of early nineteenth-century England, can be read as a meditation upon the relationship between memory and social relations. Clare drew upon the local traditions with which he had been brought up, setting them as golden memories against the harshness of the social conditions of the time at which he was writing.¹ Within Clare’s vision of agrarian history, parliamentary enclosure had fractured a distinct set of social relations, one characterised by paternalism, decency and kindness. In The Shepherd’s Calendar, Clare conjures up a lost world of social...

  17. 11 Work, Reward and Labour Discipline in Late Seventeenth-Century England
    (pp. 255-280)
    Steve Hindle

    In June 1692, Sir Richard Newdigate of Arbury near Nuneaton (Warwickshire) condemned the indolence of one of the agricultural labourers who was employed on his estate. William Suffolk, he noted, ‘lyes abed and will not work’.¹ Complaints of this kind were entirely characteristic of an economic context in which, for the first time in well over a century, the fortunes of employers, and especially of landlords, were being undermined by falling rents, stagnant prices and increasing wages.² Because labour was in relatively short supply in late seventeenth-century England, it was believed that ‘the very fabric of society could be threatened,...

  18. 12 Living in Poverty in Eighteenth-Century Terling
    (pp. 281-316)
    H. R. French

    Samuel Payne was baptised in the mid-Essex village of Terling on 1 August 1736, the fifth child of Robert and Mary Payne. After marrying in 1757 or 1758, he and his wife Sarah went on to have twelve children between 1759 and 1778, including (remarkably) three sets of twins: Hannah and Mary, baptised in June 1768, Joseph and John, baptised in June 1770, and Rhoda and Amelia, baptised in August 1773. This exceptional fertility left the Paynes heavily dependent on relief from the parish throughout the period. Samuel received relief during bouts of ‘sickness’ in each winter between 1767 and...

  19. 13 From Commonwealth to Public Opulence: The Redefinition of Wealth and Government in Early Modern Britain
    (pp. 317-340)
    Craig Muldrew

    Although Adam Smith chose to title his great work on the economic organisation of society An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, it is not about national power, but about the wealth of the people who happened to live in nations. The very first sentence in his introduction to the work describes how ‘the annual labour of every nation’ is the fund which ‘supplies it with all the necessities and conveniences of life’.³ The organisation of his book is evidence of what he considered to be most important. He began with the division of labour,...

  20. Appendix: Bibliography of the Published Writings of Keith Wrightson from 1974 to 2011
    (pp. 341-348)
  21. Index
    (pp. 349-372)
  22. Tabula Gratulatoria
    (pp. 373-374)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 375-377)