The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year, 1400-1700

The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year, 1400-1700

The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year, 1400-1700

The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year, 1400-1700

Synopsis

An entertaining book that breaks new scholarly ground, The Rise and Fall of Merry England explores the rituals which marked the passage of the year in late medieval and early modern England. Treating both religious and secular rituals, and both popular and elite ones, Hutton tells how they altered over time in response to political, religious, and social change. He also addresses some key issues in English history: the character and pace of the Reformation; the context of beloved writers like Ben Jonson and Robert Herrick; the origins of the science of folklore; and the impact of the English Revolution. A comprehensive work that breaks several frontiers, this highly readable book will delight all those interested in English history and folklore.

Excerpt

This book is one product of a long-cherished design to write a history of the ritual year in the British Isles. My collection of information upon the subject predated my undergraduate career, but only in 1981 did I resolve to undertake the book. I drafted a plan of research that year and commenced steady work upon it in 1983, alongside the very different enterprise of a life of Charles ii. My intention was to pursue each in alternate months for about ten years, publishing essays upon both as my research advanced. This system operated until 1985, when I decided to concentrate upon the royal biography. This was partly because the competition in that field was increasing, and threatened to render pointless many of my original intentions if I attended to them at so slow a pace. It was also because my material on the ritual year now seemed likely to give birth to at least three books instead of one. I completed Charles ii in 1988, and by 1989 I had added a short textbook on the Interregnum to close a gap in my writing on the mid-seventeenth century. the way was now clear for me to resume my other work, first by producing a survey of what was known of the pagan religions of the ancient British Isles, intended to prove how little of certainty could be said about them. This was finished in 1990, and I commenced the second instalment of publication, covering the years 1400 to 1700 and represented by the present book. the general history of calendar customs which I planned in 1981, The Stations of the Sun, can now follow upon a foundation made much stronger by the first two works.

Inevitably, scholarly interest in aspects of the subject of this book has increased considerably during the past ten years, resulting in a string of publications which have stimulated my own ideas and added to my knowledge, but also, inevitably, rendered some of my earlier research redundant. the late 1980s saw the publication of important books by David Underdown and David Cressy which accomplished all those results, and after most of this one was written the rapid appearance of more by Julian Davies, Kevin Sharpe, and Eamon Duffy resulted in the deletion of several passages which covered matters now well represented by them. I can only . . .

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