Reformation and Rebellion

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"The Description of the Horrible Burning of John Badby..." 

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Foundations of Religious Conflict and Foxe's Book of Martyrs

John Foxe (1516/17–1587) was an evangelical martyrologist who lived through the Protestant Reformation, a rather trying time for Englishmen of all religions (Freeman 2008). The sixteenth century was a period marked by a sort of religious whiplash that occurred during the reigns of four Tudor monarchs, each with their own unique opinions on what godliness should look like in England. Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church and his son then steered the country towards Protestantism. Mary attempted to bring Catholicism back, but Elizabeth I undid her sister’s work and cemented England’s identity as a Protestant power. 

Foxe was shaped by these events. When it was clear Mary would inherit the throne, Foxe and his family went into exile, escaping potential persecution (Freeman 2008). While away, Foxe wrote some of his lesser-known works of martyrology. It was not until the reign of Elizabeth I that his most famous text, Acts and Monuments, would be published. However, it is safe to say the tumult that he and other English Protestants endured during Mary’s queenship influenced his decision to engage in such work. 

While the book contains much more information than just accounts of the martyred, this became the focal point of the work. Gruesome executions of pious men and women, dedicated to their faith emboldened British Protestants to defend themselves and their religion from perceived popish treachery.

One such sacrifice was that of John Badby, whom Foxe refers to as “the godly martyr” (Foxe, 1563). The illustration shows Badby being burnt at the stake. This is only one of numerous instances of cruelty towards Protestants in the book, which certainly heightened Protestant fears of persecution from Catholics. This resentment of the Roman faith made the Protestant population far less accepting of policies, or rulers, sympathetic to Catholics. Such sentiments would play a significant role in the defining events of the seventeenth century in Britain.

- Kailynn Renfro


The King James Bible 1613 Cover Page

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The Emergence of the King James Bible

The King James Bible was first printed in 1611 by Robert Barker who was the king’s printer. He was the son of Christopher Barker who was queen Elizabeth’s printer (Westbrook, ODNB). It is believed that there were about 47 scholars who contributed to the translation of the King James Bible into English from the Hebrew and Greek, and that about 80 percent of its translation stems from the William Tyndale version (Austin, LiveScience). 

The main competing Bible when the King James Bible was published was the Geneva Bible, but by 1644, the King James Bible was the only established Bible in England. Both culturally and pragmatically, this Bible was very important to England.  “From the time of Tyndale onwards, the Bible and literacy went hand in hand. People learnt to read in order to read the Bible; in due course the Bible became the chief book in teaching children to read…Regardless of the literary standards of the intelligentsia, regardless of what they thought the best standards of writing, such love created a sentimental basis for admiration of the KJB, and it made the KJB the most familiar standard of English” (Norton, Cambridge University Press).

Christianity, particularly the Church of England, was tied very closely to the English Crown.  This concept is embellished by this quote in the King James Bible (1613) in reference to King James, “Great and manifold were the blessings (most dread Soveraigne) which Almightie God, the Father of all Mercies, bestowed upon us the people of ENGLAND, when first he sent your Majesties Royall person to rule and raigne over us”. Such reverence for Christianity would ensure that religion played some role in most if not all of England’s major events.

- Josh Murphy

Dugdale, William - Short View of the Late Troubles Title Page - edit.jpg

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Dugdale, William - Short View - Charles I on Horseback - edit.jpg

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Dugdale, William - High and Mighty Monarch - Charles - edit.jpg

RaD, CU Boulder Libraries

A Short View of the Late Troubles in England

William Dugdale was born into a relatively wealthy English family in 1605 and through his early work collating the history of Warwickshire and connections with higher ups in the gentry, he was able to be promoted into prestigious academic positions before the onset of Civil War (Parry, ODNB). Once war had begun, he was called upon by Charles as a herald and was instructed to demand the surrender of Banbury, Warwick, and Coventry, the latter two of which, refused (Parry, ODNB). Dugdale was present at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642 but after the King’s defeat he did not escape into exile like many other Royalists; instead he forfeited some of his assets but continued his research in London, publishing The Antiquities of Warwickshire in 1656 and The History of Saint Paul in 1658 (Parry, ODNB). After the restoration of the monarchy, Dugdale was highly recommended and was eventually appointed Garter King of Arms and received a knighthood in 1677, four years prior to his writing of A Short View of the Late Troubles in England in 1681. Dugdale died on the 10th of February 1686 (Parry, ODNB). 

Dugdale wastes no time in displaying his royalist sympathies concerning his interpretation of the rebellion. In just the opening few lines he states: “These great pretenders to godliness were they who have been the chief disturbers of our blessed peace” (Dugdale, London). From this argument we can interpret that not only does Dugdale condone the presence of a divine right but importantly details who he believes was at fault for the English Civil War. By noting the “pretenders” were to blame for the period of “blessed peace” implies to the reader that the period before 1642 was a time of prosperity and unity in the nation. Whereas objective fact displays to us the rebellion did not appear from nowhere, like Dugdale suggests, and instead was a culmination of missteps from King Charles I that have gone unaccounted for in the book’s opening. 

This depiction of Charles I is a helpful insight on Dugdale’s viewing of the English Civil War for several reasons. Firstly, Charles is depicted as approaching the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. Charles was baptised at the palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on the 23rd of December 1600 but seeing as he is depicted here in his adulthood, we can assume it is referring to King Charles’s expedition to the Scottish border to attempt to put down the Bishop’s War that had begun in Scotland in 1639 (Kishlansky & Morris, ODNB). This is notable because Charles never made it as far as Edinburgh with his army.  In fact, in both Bishop’s Wars in 1639 and 1640, Charles barely made it over the border (Harris, Oxford University Press). This, coupled with the text, shows the reader how Dugdale wants Charles to be perceived as this successful King who would put himself in the line of fire to “defend the faith” (Dugdale, London). Dugdale’s piece is most effective in illustrating the outbreak of war in Britain from the Royalist perceptive as well as being a clear display of history being written by its victors.

- Joseph Gardner

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The History of the Devil

Daniel Defoe was both a businessman and writer born in the 1660s. He passed in 1731.  Both his careers were paired with dubious practices. He had substantial and long-standing debts on the one hand and seditious libel charges for his writing on the other. One of his most successful business endeavors was the opening of a brickworks in Tilbury. Several other enterprises he dabbled in were less rewarding. Much of his fiction and nonfiction works reflect an element of English life and self-perception.  Defoe was considered a political agitator and spent time both in Newgate prison and the pillories (Backscheider, ODNB). He is known for having written work supporting dissenters and having flowers thrown his way instead of dead animals or rotten fruits that most individuals would be hit with in the pillory. His abhorrence for Catholicism is notable in much of his work. He is well known for The Shortest Way With The Dissenters. He writes both in support of dissenters and the political institution simultaneously and even was tasked by Charles Townsend to infiltrate In Tory presses. The History of the Devil: As Well Ancient as Modern, Defoe addresses the occult and the Christian devil’s apparition in human life and their ability to inhabit the body of mortals and control them

- Jacob Agona