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The World of Rural Dissenters, 1520 1725

There has been dispute amongst social historians about whether only the more prosperous in village society were involved in religious practice. In this 1995 book, 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. In her own substantial chapter Dr Spufford draws together the mosaic constructed by the 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.
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Table of Contents

Preface; 1. The importance of religion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Margaret Spufford; 2. The social and economic status of the later Lollards Derek Plumb; 3. A gathered church? Lollards and their society Derek Plumb; 4. The origins, function, and status of the office of churchwarden, with particular reference to the diocese of Ely Eric Carlson; 5. The gravestone of Thomas Lawrence revisited, or the Family of Love and the local community in Balsham, 1560-1630 Christopher Marsh; 6. Piety in the pedlar's pack: continuity and change, 1578-1630 Tessa Watt; 7. The mobility and descent of dissenters in the Chiltern Hundreds Michael Frearson, Nesta Evans and Peter Spufford; 8. The social and economic status of post-Restoration dissenters, 1660-1725 Bill Stevenson; 9. The social integration of post-Restoration dissenters, 1660-1725 Bill Stevenson; 10. Critical conclusion Patrick Collinson; Appendices.


Review of the hardback: 'The World of Rural Dissenters is of central importance not only to historians of religion but to all who are interested in the nature of early modern societies and in how to investigate them. The group directed by Margaret Spufford have settled many an old argument and through their expertise and enthusiasm have produced a challenging agenda for new research.' David Hey, The Agricultural History Review

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