Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Devil's Book: Charles I, the Book of Sports and Puritanism in Tudor and Early Stuart England

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Devil's Book: Charles I, the Book of Sports and Puritanism in Tudor and Early Stuart England

Article excerpt

The Devil's Book: Charles I, The Book of Sports and Puritanism in Tudor and Early Stuart England. By Alistair Dougall. (Exeter, United Kingdom: The University of Exeter Press, 2011, Pp. xviii, 230. $90.00.)

One contemporary observed in 1641 that the Sabbath had become, for most of the English population, "a Ball, betwixt two Racketts (sic) bandied this way and that way" between the "godly" and the "profane," (101) the focus of a cultural battlefield erupting on the eve of the English Civil War. The sporting reference in this quotation points to the integral place that recreation and traditional festivity played in this battle over how to observe the Sabbath. Alistair Dougall offers a thoroughly researched examination of this issue and how much the issue contributed to the political tumult culminating in the execution of King Charles I in The Devil's Book Charles I, The Book of Sports and Puritanism in Tudor and Early Stuart England. The monograph is best suited for the professional historian interested in this time period; the general reader unfamiliar with the relevant historiography will be discouraged by the labored survey of both primary and secondary source materials in this book.

A key argument that Dougall makes in this work is that the English Puritans offered a new, more radical Sabbatarianism in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that was unprecedented compared to earlier expressions of opposition to a festive tradition pursued on the Lord's Day. In chapter one, we learn that medieval critics of Sabbathbreaking viewed the practice very narrowly. There was no general opposition to sports, revelry or other festive practices on Sunday for their own sake. Challenges were made simply if such activities interfered with church attendance or corrupted religious duties through association with gambling or heavy drinking. These concerns, along with the heightened sense of social disorder that could originate from "ales," festivals frequently held on Sundays for the purpose of raising money (sometimes for the parish church) through selling strong drink, were carried forward into the English Reformation and the Elizabethan era. In chapter three, the argument is made that the Puritan view of the Sabbath, while building on earlier opposition, was unique in its elevation of Sunday as the only holy day (other church-designated holy days were "popish") and in its attack on sports and traditional festivities whether they interfered with church attendance or not. …

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