From Reformation to Improvement: Public Welfare in Early Modern England

By Paul P. Slack | Go to book overview
Save to active project


Looking for bright spots in an otherwise diseased commonwealth in 1585, William Cecil identified 'good towns' with their 'discreet preachers, very zealous towards God', and watchful 'for her Majesty's safety'.1 It was perhaps less the queen's than the town's safety which most concerned the more zealous of these preachers, several of whom were masters of the civic hospitals considered in the last chapter: Thomas Sampson at Wigston's, Leicester, for example, or Thomas Cartwright at Leicester's Hospital, Warwick, or Arthur Wake at St John's, Northampton. In 1630 one of the last of the line, Robert Jenison, master of Mary Magdalene Hospital and lecturer in Newcastle upon Tyne, discussed The Citie's Safetle at some length. Protection from divine punishment -- from plague, famine and the sword, from fire and flood -- belonged, he asserted, 'peculiarly to godly cities, even to such as God will take and acknowledge for his own, and to godly persons in them. Over such cities God will in special manner watch for good, and will establish them in safety.' Jenison's confidence was unqualified: 'Doubtless, we belonging to godly cities, and being for our parts members thereof, shall escape . . . many dangers, and remain a quiet habitation.'2

In reality, godly cities were for the most part the most unquiet habitations, as we know from the work of Patrick Collinson, David Underdown, and other historians who have told us a good deal about such places: cities 'set on a hill', like Colchester and Dorchester, 'second Genevas' like Coventry and Stratford-upon-Avon.3 Despite the attention already given to them, however, they demand some prolonged consideration here. In efforts to reform manners, repress idleness, and employ and relieve the poor, their magistrates and ministers proclaimed a very deliberate and influential vision of the public welfare. Godly cities, according to Jenison, were those purged by 'a

PRO, SP 12/184/50.
Robert Jenison, The Cities Safetie ( 1630), 11, 29. On Jenison, see R. Howell, Newcastle upon Tyne and the Puritan Revolution ( Oxford, 1967), 85-6.
P. Collinson, The Birthpangs of Protestant England ( 1986), 30; D. Underdown, Fire from Heaven: Life in an English Town in the Seventeenth Century ( 1992), P. ix; A. Hughes, Politics, Society and Civil War in Warwickshire 1620-60 ( Cambridge, 1987), 80; VCH Warwickshire, iii ( 1945), 280-1.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
From Reformation to Improvement: Public Welfare in Early Modern England


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 179

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?