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Title: Print, debate and the public sphere in the London tithes cause, c.1600-1650
Author: Morrison, Stuart
ISNI:       0000 0004 7427 8689
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2018
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The debates over tithe payments in early modern London have been understudied as well as largely misunderstood and misdescribed in histories of the early modern period; it has been suggested that the tithe debates '[do] not seem to have been of very great interest or importance', and some of the extant material concerning the tithe debates has been described as having 'no information likely to be of general interest'. This has led Edith Bershadsky to suggest that 'the majority of historians' concerned with early modern history have 'regarded London tithes as an insignificant question'. In this thesis I challenge these misconceptions by providing a detailed study of the London tithes cause, with a particular focus on ideas of print, debate and the public sphere. The majority of the historiography on early modern tithes has focused on the legal ambiguity surrounding the clerical tax, and only recently - and still rather sporadically - have thoughts turned to their wider social, political and religious significance. Here I adopt an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the tithe debates and focus particularly on the patterns of language and rhetoric employed by the disputants in printed and manuscript sources, both 'literary' and 'non-literary'. By focusing on the City of London over a period of 50 years in this thesis, and by assessing the source material from both quantitative and qualitative angles, I provide a more thoroughgoing narrative of continuity and change in the course of the tithe disputes - both in terms of the theoretical discussion of their legality and the practical aspect of their enforcement. In Chapter 1 I examine the proliferation of printed works defending the divine right to tithes in the early years of James I's reign and suggest that there was a concerted effort by James and his Archbishop, Richard Bancroft, to foster a publishing circle of lay and clerical individuals to defend the Church's right to tithes. Chapter 2 focuses on perhaps the single-most influential text in the early modern tithe debates - John Selden's The Historie of Tithes (1618). In this chapter I am particularly concerned with ideas of intertextuality and censorship, and I contextualise Selden's work by analysing it next to works - some of which were state-sponsored - written to refute Selden's claims. Chapter 3 transitions to a consideration of the more practical aspects of the tithe disputes in London and is concerned with the clerical attempt to improve the value of their livings through tithes in the 1630s. Here ministers of an array of styles of churchmanship united to petition Charles I, but met resistance in the form of the civic authorities. In this chapter I engage with archival material held at Lambeth Palace and correct a number of misconceptions that have been passed down through the historiography of the tithe debates, and I explore how the lay and clerical corporate bodies interacted with one another. In Chapter 4 I focus on the turbulence of the 1640s and examine how the tithe debates were conducted in printed pamphlets as well as in the intra-mural parochial vestries. Here we see how the non-payment of tithes becomes linked with ideas of liberty of conscience and religious toleration in the conforming literature, and how conforming lay persons attempted to effect change at a parochial level through the mechanisms available to them. Throughout the thesis, then, I argue: that the tithe debates were near universal in their impact upon various aspects of early modern life; that the discussion of tithes was considered vitally important both locally and nationally; that a great deal of effort and time was put into the publication of arguments for and against the system of tithes; and that there existed a public sphere in London in which the issue of tithes was hotly debated, both in literature and in 'real life'. More broadly, this thesis shows that in focusing on the issue of tithes we are able to see how individuals and institutions interacted and communicated over a fiercely-debated topic in the early modern period, and how these politically engaged people employed their linguistic and rhetorical skills to involve themselves in the continuing reformations of both Church and State.
Supervisor: Richardson, Catherine ; Fincham, Kenneth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available