Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

'No Historie So Meete': Gentry Culture and the Development of Local History in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England

Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

'No Historie So Meete': Gentry Culture and the Development of Local History in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England

Article excerpt

Jan Broadway, 'No Historie so meete': Gentry Culture and the development of local History in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2006, hb. pp. 252, £55, ISBN 07190-7294-8.

For historians of the early modern period the use of contemporary histories produced by members of the local gentry about whom one is often writing is something of a commonplace. The works become subsumed as source materials, often despite their beauty as creative work and their varying style and approaches. Jan Broadway rightly brings us to a full stop and makes us look again at these books, not as a route to something else but as a study in themselves.

The book, which looks at well over a hundred writers and their works, begins with an overview of the nature of local history before 1660, discussing Leland and Camden in particular, but also lesser known figures like Sampson Erdeswicke, who worked with Camden and produced a View of Staffordshire. Writing these histories was, Broadway argues, not lucrative and was for kudos. At that time the kudos was achieved through the erudition of the writing not the volume of sales: the market, Broadway concludes, 'was comparatively modest'. Some well-known authors failed to make an impact on the book market with historical and topographical work and this probably had an impact on later content. One interesting point is her suggestion of the power of histories to unite contemporarily warring factions, or perhaps they were considered so obscure as to be viewed as totally irrelevant to contemporary politics and debate, indicated by the way that the author of The Description of Leicestershire, William Burton, got Arminian Sir John Lambe to revise his second edition and future parliamentarian Sir Symonds D'Ewes to write the preface. Whilst development of science and knowledge through evidence had an impact on the way local histories were written, largely speaking the developing 'natural philosophy' had little impact: the Tudors' and Stuarts' obsession with genealogy remained embedded in local history writing until the twentieth century! …

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