The World of Rural Dissenters, 1520-1725

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Cambridge University Press, Mar 16, 1995 - History - 459 pages
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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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Contents

The importance of religion in the sixteenth and seventeenth
1
The social and economic status of the later Lollards
103
A gathered church? Lollards and their society
132
The origins function and status of the office of churchwarden
164
The gravestone of Thomas Lawrence revisited or the Family
208
The mobility and descent of dissenters in the Chiltern
273
scendants in early modern England
309
The social and economic status of postRestoration dissenters
332
The social integration of postRestoration dissenters 1660
360
Critical conclusion
388
Appendices
397
Index of contemporary names
431
General index
444
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