This seeds of this book were first planted in my mind in 1994 during a typically thought-provoking coffee break with Peter Lake. To attempt to acknowledge all of the help that I have received during the intervening years seems a hopeless task, and even at my most self-indulgent I could not possibly express here the gratitude that I owe to so many wonderful people. So let me begin by offering a pre-emptive pint of ale to all those friends, family and colleagues whose names do not appear here but who have supported me over the years; you know who you are, and I look forward to making good my debts.
My most profound thanks go to the three mentors who have trained me as a scholar: Peter Lake and Diarmaid MacCulloch saw this project through from beginning to end, while Tim Harris gave me the confidence to undertake so daunting a project in the first place. Any readers familiar with Tudor—Stuart historiography will see their fingerprints throughout this volume, but what readers will not see is that my occasional ability to transcend their interpretations and find my own voice is itself the greatest testament to their skill and generosity as teachers.
I also owe enormous thanks to the scholars and friends who read and commented upon various versions of the text. Entire drafts, either as thesis or typescript, were read by Tim Breen, Tony Grafton, Bill Heyck, Bill Jordan, Peter Lake, Diarmaid MacCulloch and Peter Marshall. Drafts of individual chapters or sections were read by Margaret Aston, Tom Freeman, Tim Harris, Amanda Jones, Michael Questier, Nicholas Tyacke and Diane Watt. Over the years, I have also benefited from countless conversations with colleagues (both in British history and in other fields) who pushed my thoughts in new directions. While I cannot express my gratitude here for all these conversations, I am especially grateful to Bernard Bailyn, Alastair Bellany, Philip Benedict, Brian Cowan, Natalie Davis, Jeff Dolven, Ken Fincham, Ben Frommer, Eric Klinenberg, Greg Lyon, Ian McNeely, Judith Maltby, Ed Muir, Richard Rex, Margaret Sena and Lisa Wolverton. The late Lawrence Stone provided both intellectual stimulation and personal encouragement for