Books

The Top 11 of 2011: Early Modern England Wish List!

The Top 11 of 2011: Early Modern England Wish List!

The Devil in Disguise: Deception, Delusion, and Fanaticism in the Early English Enlightenment (April 10, 2011) 

Knights, Mark

Summary

The Devil in Disguise illuminates the impact of the two British revolutions of the seventeenth century and the shifts in religious, political, scientific, literary, economic, social, and moral culture that they brought about. It does so through the fascinating story of one family and their locality: the Cowpers of Hertford. Their dramatic history contains a murder mystery, bigamy, a scandal novel, and a tyrannized wife, all set against a backdrop of violently competing local factions, rampant religious prejudice, and the last conviction of a witch in England. Spencer Cowper was accused of murdering a Quaker, and his brother William had two illegitimate children by his second ‘wife’. Their scandalous lives became the source of public gossip, much to the horror of their mother, Sarah, who poured out her heart in a diary that also chronicles her feeling of being enslaved to her husband. Her two sons remained in the limelight. Both were instrumental in the prosecution of Henry Sacheverell, a firebrand cleric who preached a sermon about the illegitimacy of resistance and religious toleration. His parliamentary trial in 1710 provoked serious riots in London. William Cowper also intervened in 1712 to secure the life of Jane Wenham, whose trial provoked a wide-ranging debate about witchcraft beliefs. The Cowpers and their town are a microcosm of a changing world. Their story suggests that an early ‘Enlightenment’, far from being simply a movement of ideas sparked by ‘great thinkers’, was shaped and advanced by local and personal struggles.


The Rule of Moderation: Violence, Religion and the Politics of Restraint in Early Modern England (November 14 2011)

Ethan H. Shagan

Summary

Why was it that whenever the Tudor-Stuart regime most loudly trumpeted its moderation, the regime was at its most vicious? With the answer to this fundamental question at its heart, The Rule of Moderation comprehensively rewrites the history of early modern England, showing that many of its key developments-the via media of Anglicanism, the rise of the ‘middle sort’, the idea of political liberty, the development of empire, the rise of religious toleration-were defined and defended as instances of coercive and aggressive moderation, producing the ‘middle way’ through the forcible restraint of apparently dangerous excesses in Church, state and society. Ethan Shagan draws on literary and historical sources to illuminate the subtle violence of English history and explain how, paradoxically, England came to represent reason, civility and moderation to a world it slowly conquered. The quintessentially English quality of moderation was, at heart, an ideology of control.

Death and the Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I and the Dark Scandal That Rocked the Throne (January 18, 2011)

Skidmore, Chris

Summary

On the morning of September 8, 1560, at the isolated manor of Cunmor place, the body of a young woman was found at the bottom of a staircase, her neck broken. But this was no ordinary death. Amy Robsart was the wife of Elizabeth I’s great favorite, Robert Dudley, the man who many believed she would marry, were he free. Immediately people suspected foul play and Elizabeth’s own reputation was in danger of serious damage. Many felt she might even lose her throne. An inquest was begun, witnesses called, and ultimately a verdict of death by accident was reached. But the mystery refused to die and cast a long shadow over Elizabeth’s reign. Using recently discovered forensic evidence from the original investigation, Skidmore is able to put an end to centuries of speculation as to the true causes of Robsart’s death. This is the story of a treacherous period in Elizabeth’s life: a tale of love, death, and tragedy, exploring the dramatic early life of England’s Virgin Queen.

The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty (March 1, 2011)

Meyer, G.J.

Summary

Acclaimed historian G. J. Meyer provides a fresh look at the fabled Tudor dynasty—and some of the most enigmatic figures ever to rule a country. In 1485, Henry Tudor, whose claim to the English throne was so weak as to be almost laughable, nevertheless sailed from France with a ragtag army to take the crown from the family that had ruled England for almost four centuries. Fifty years later, his son, Henry VIII, aimed to seize even greater powers—ultimately leaving behind a brutal legacy that would blight the lives of his children and the destiny of his country. Edward VI, a fervent believer in reforming the English church, died before realizing his dream. Mary I, the disgraced daughter of Catherine of Aragon, tried and failed to reestablish the Catholic Church and produce an heir, while Elizabeth I sacrificed all chance of personal happiness in order to survive. The Tudors presents the sinners and saints, the tragedies and triumphs, the high dreams and dark crimes, of this enthralling era.

The Mistresses of Henry VIII (July 1, 2011)

Hart, Kelly

Summary

From an exciting new voice in Tudor history comes the story of Henry’s mistresses—the six mistresses that historians agree upon, and several more possible women who were involved with Henry. Seventeen-year-old Henry VIII was “a youngling, he cares for nothing but girls and hunting,” and over the years, this didn’t change much. Henry was considered a demi-god by his subjects, so each woman he chose was someone who had managed to stand out in a crowd of stunning ladies. Looking good was not enough, she had to be extra special to keep the king’s interest, and Henry’s women were every bit as intriguing as the man himself. The 16th century was a time of profound changes in religion and society across Europe, and some of Henry’s lovers were at the forefront of influencing these events. Here, they are finally rescued from obscurity. A must-read for Tudor and Anne Boleyn fans, this volume also includes a useful chronology of Henry’s marriages, liaisons, and children.

 The Demonology of King James I: Includes the Original Text of Daemonologie and News from Scotland (April 8, 2011)

Tyson, Donald

Summary

Written by King James I and published in 1597, the original edition of “Demonology” is widely regarded as one of the most interesting and controversial religious writings in history. The tome, written in the language of its day, has been notoriously difficult to understand. Now occult scholar Donald Tyson has modernized and annotated the original book, making this historically important text accessible to modern readers. Tyson chronicles King James’ obsession with demons, their alleged attempts on his life, and the first recorded witch trials. He also offers a knowledgeable and sympathetic look at the details of the magick and witchcraft of the period. “Demonology” features historical woodcut illustrations and includes the original old English text in its entirety.

Trials of Margaret Clitherow: Persecution, Martyrdom and the Politics of Sanctity in Elizabethan England (May 26, 2011)

Lake, Peter

Summary

A new biography of a Catholic martyr exploring the complicated and controversial story of her demise. The story of Margaret Clitherow represents one of the most important yet troubling events in post-Reformation history. Her trial, execution and subsequent legend have provoked controversy ever since she became a cause celebre in the time of Elizabeth I. Through extensive new research into the contemporary accounts of her arrest and trial the authors have pieced together a new reading of the surrounding events. The result is a work which considers the question of religious sainthood and martyrdom as well as the relationship between society, the state and the Church in Britain during the sixteenth century. They establish the full ideological significance of the trial and demonstrate that the politics of post-Reformation British society cannot be understood without the wider local, national and international contexts in which they occurred. This is a major contribution to our understanding of both English Catholicism and the Protestant regime of the Elizabethan period.

Coyness and Crime in Restoration Comedy: Women’s Desire, Deception, and Agency (November 25, 2011)

Thompson, Peggy

Summary

Coyness and Crime in Restoration Comedy examines the extraordinary focus on coy women in late seventeenth-century English comedy.  Plays by Etherege, Wycherley, Dryden, Behn, Shadwell, Congreve, Trotter, Southerne, Vanbrugh, and Pix—as well as much modern scholarship about them—taint almost all feminine modesty with intimations of duplicity and illicit desire that must be contained. Forceful responses by men, therefore, are implicitly exonerated, encouraged, and eroticized. In short, characters become “women” by performing coyness, only to be mocked and punished for it.  

 Peggy Thompson explores the disturbing dynamic of feminine coyness and masculine control as it interacts with reaffirmations of church and king, anxiety over new wealth, and emerging interests in liberty, novelty, and marriage in late seventeenth-century England.  Despite the diversity of these contexts, the plays consistently reveal women caught in an ironic and nearly intractable convergence of objectification and culpability that allows them little innocent sexual agency. This is both the source and the legacy of coyness in Restoration comedy.

Martyrs’ Mirror: Persecution and Holiness in Early New England (October 10, 2011)

Weimer, Adrian Chastain

Summary

Martyrs’ Mirror examines the folklore of martyrdom among seventeenth-century New England Protestants, exploring how they imagined themselves within biblical and historical narratives of persecution. Memories of martyrdom, especially stories of the Protestants killed during the reign of Queen Mary in the mid-sixteenth century, were central to a model of holiness and political legitimacy. The colonists of early New England drew on this historical imagination in order to strengthen their authority in matters of religion during times of distress. By examining how the notions of persecution and martyrdom move in and out of the writing of the period, Adrian Chastain Weimer finds that the idea of the true church as a persecuted church infused colonial identity. 

Though contested, the martyrs formed a shared heritage, and fear of being labeled a persecutor, or even admiration for a cheerful sufferer, could serve to inspire religious tolerance. The sense of being persecuted also allowed colonists to avoid responsibility for aggression against Algonquian tribes. Surprisingly, those wishing to defend maltreated Christian Algonquians wrote their history as a continuation of the persecutions of the true church. This examination of the historical imagination of martyrdom contributes to our understanding of the meaning of suffering and holiness in English Protestant culture, of the significance of religious models to debates over political legitimacy, and of the cultural history of persecution and tolerance.

Crime and Criminals of Victorian England (March 10, 2011)

Gray, Adrian

Summary

Dark and foggy Victorian streets, the murderous madman, the arsenic-laced evening meal—we all think we know the realities of Victorian crime. Adrian Gray’s book thrillingly reflects some of this, ranging over classic murders by knife and poison. But it also covers much more, taking the reader into less familiar parts of Victorian life, uncovering the wicked, the vengeful, the foolish, and the hopeless amongst the criminal world of the nineteenth century. Here you will encounter the women who sold their children, the bankers who stole the money they were supposed to keep safe, smugglers, highwaymen, the first terrorists, ruthless “footpads” and the “mesmerists” who fooled a credulous public, even the Salvationist band that went to gaol. The book takes in the cities, villages, lanes, mills, and ships of the period. In the process of telling a host of human tales, the author shows how our laws today have been shaped by what the Victorians considered acceptable—or made illegal.

Supernatural Environments in Shakespeare’s England: Spaces of Demonism, Divinity, and Drama (August 15, 2011)

Poole, Kristen

Summary

Bringing together recent scholarship on religion and the spatial imagination, Kristen Poole examines how changing religious beliefs and transforming conceptions of space were mutually informative in the decades around 1600. Supernatural Environments in Shakespeare’s England explores a series of cultural spaces that focused attention on interactions between the human and the demonic or divine: the deathbed, purgatory, demonic contracts and their spatial surround, Reformation cosmologies and a landscape newly subject to cartographic surveying. It examines the seemingly incongruous coexistence of traditional religious beliefs and new mathematical, geometrical ways of perceiving the environment. Arguing that the late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century stage dramatized the phenomenological tension that resulted from this uneasy confluence, this groundbreaking study considers the complex nature of supernatural environments in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Shakespeare’s Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth and The Tempest. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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