Unsettled: The Culture of Mobility and the Working Poor in Early Modern England

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University of Chicago Press, 2006 - History - 237 pages

Migrants made up a growing class of workers in late sixteenth- and seventeenth- century England. In fact, by 1650, half of England’s rural population consisted of homeless and itinerant laborers. Unsettled is an ambitious attempt to reconstruct the everyday lives of these dispossessed people. Patricia Fumerton offers an expansive portrait of unsettledness in early modern England that includes the homeless and housed alike.

Fumerton begins by building on recent studies of vagrancy, poverty, and servants, placing all in the light of a new domestic economy of mobility. She then looks at representations of the vagrant in a variety of pamphlets and literature of the period. Since seamen were a particularly large and prominent class of mobile wage-laborers in the seventeenth century, Fumerton turns to seamen generally and to an individual poor seaman as a case study of the unsettled subject: Edward Barlow (b. 1642) provides a rare opportunity to see how the laboring poor fashioned themselves, for he authored a journal of over 225,000 words and 147 pages of drawings. Barlow’s journal, studied extensively here for the first time, vividly charts what he himself termed his “unsettled mind” and the perpetual anxieties of England’s working and wayfaring poor. Ultimately, Fumerton explores representations of seamen as unsettled in the broadside ballads of Barlow’s time.


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Mobilizing the Poor
Londons Economy of Unsettlednessand Beyond
Disguising the Working Poor Harmans Caveat
Unsettled Subjectivity The Virtual I
The Case of Edward Barlow
Not Well Settled in My Mind
Poor Men at Sea Never to be worth one groat afore a beggar
Charting Barlow
Unsettling the New Global Economy
Edward Barlows Family Tree
Inventory of George Barlow 1686
Record of Edward Barlows Mobility On Land and Sea
Will of Edward Barlow Commander of the Liampo 1708
On the Variation of the Compass
Selected Bibliography

Toward a Lowly Aesthetics of Unsettledness
The Ballads Seaman A Constant Parting

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About the author (2006)

Patricia Fumerton is professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Cultural Aesthetics: Renaissance Literature and the Practice of Social Ornament and coeditor of Renaissance Culture and the Everyday.

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