Understanding Popular Violence in the English Revolution: The Colchester Plunderers

By John Walter | Go to book overview

Introduction

An event is a portentous outcome … It is not just a happening there
to be narrated but a happening to which cultural significance has
successfully been assigned. And its identity and significance are
established primarily in terms of its location in time, in relation to a
course or chain of other happenings. Both their internal design and
their assigned significance mark events as in the first instance
matters of sequence, of the organisation and meaning of action in
time. Events, indeed, are our principal points of access to the
structuring of social action in time … Events, however detailed, are
constructed not observed.

Philip Abrams, 'Explaining Events: A Problem of
Method'1

When the Colchester gentleman, Sir John Lucas, stepped out of his back gate shortly after midnight on 22 August 1642, he stepped almost immediately into the pages of history: his secret attempt to take aid to Charles I on the eve of civil war aroused the hostility of the townsfolk and raised crowds numbered, it was said, in their thousands. These crowds plundered and vandalised his house and subjected Sir John and his family to a series of indignities that transgressed boundaries of status and gender in early modern society. Thereafter attacks on noble and gentry households spread out into the counties of Essex and Suffolk. The scale of popular 'violence' ensured that the episode figured prominently in the contemporary record and secured for Sir John a place in the hagiography of the Revolution's victims. In turn, the prominence of the event in contemporary print culture ensured its writing into the later historiography of the English Revolution. When historians of the English

Place of publication is London unless otherwise stated.

____________________
1
P. Abrams, Historical Sociology (Shepton Mallet, 1988), p. 191

-1-

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Understanding Popular Violence in the English Revolution: The Colchester Plunderers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Past and Present Publications *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Abbreviations x
  • Introduction 1
  • Part 1 - The Event 11
  • 1. - An Event and Its History 13
  • 2. - The Attacks 31
  • Part 2 - Contextualising the Crowd 69
  • 3. - The Micro-Politics of the Attack on Sir John Lucas 71
  • 4. - The High Politics of the Attack on Sir John Lucas 115
  • Part 3 - The Confessional Crowd 159
  • 5. - The Attack on Ministers 161
  • 6. - The Attack on Catholics 201
  • Part 4 - Reading the Crowd 235
  • 7. - Cloth and Class 237
  • 8. - Anti-Popery and Popular Parliamentarianism 285
  • Conclusion 331
  • Index 353
  • Past and Present Publications 358
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