Philip Major, Ed. Literatures of Exile in the English Revolution and Its Aftermath, 1640-1690

By Santos, Kathryn Vomero | Seventeenth-Century News, Fall-Winter 2013 | Go to article overview

Philip Major, Ed. Literatures of Exile in the English Revolution and Its Aftermath, 1640-1690


Santos, Kathryn Vomero, Seventeenth-Century News


Philip Major, ed. Literatures of Exile in the English Revolution and its Aftermath, 1640-1690. Farnham, England, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010. xvii + 215 pp. $99.95. Review by KATHRYN VOMERO SANTOS, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY.

Scholars have long acknowledged that the events of the English Revolution forced many men and women into exile, but it is only in recent years that historians and literary critics have begun to devote significant attention to the effects of such displacement on the literature and culture of the second half of the seventeenth century. Philip Major has assembled an interdisciplinary collection of essays that examine the full range of these effects by presenting new approaches to the historiography of exile during and after the English Civil Wars. Published as part of Ashgate's Transculturalisms 1400-1700 series, Literatures of Exile in the English Revolution and its Aftermath, 1640-1690 has two main goals: to contribute to the ongoing project of recuperating a history of the royalist exiles and to expand the traditionally Anglo-centric focus of existing scholarship on the Revolution to include English engagements with the continent as well as with the New World. As Lisa Jardine notes in her foreword to the collection, scholars must account for these transcultural exchanges if we are to fully understand "the intellectual and cultural history of the British Isles in the second half of the seventeenth century" (xviii).

The historiography of exile during this period has presented a number of methodological challenges, many of which are outlined by Timothy Raylor in the first essay in the collection. As Major fully acknowledges in his introduction, it is somewhat jarring to read an opening essay that seems to critique the larger project of the collection in which it appears, but it is nevertheless an important perspective that sets the tone for a volume that demonstrates a deep commitment to discussing methodology and identifying new areas of research. For Raylor, the difficulties stem first from what he calls "problems of definition" (20). The category of "exile," narrowly defined in political terms, limits the scope to a specific group of people (the royalists) during a short period of time. Raylor advocates instead for examining "English Civil War Travelers," which would allow scholars to take a broader view of Anglo-European interaction. Furthermore, Raylor contests the notion that England was intellectually isolated before the English Revolution and argues for an approach that recognizes continuity in English engagement with the continent. The second problem Raylor identifies is one of evidence. We should always be aware, he cautions, that the particular circumstances of exile and related movements across borders had serious effects on the completeness and quality of the records on which scholars typically rely.

Despite Raylor's misgivings about the archival limitations in the study of exile during and after the revolutionary period, many of the collection's contributors conducted impressive research in English, continental, and early American archives. Most notably, Marika Keblusek brings together a wide range of sources, such as letters, scrapbooks, manuscripts, acquisition records, and accounts of personal book collections in order to map out what she terms "exile book culture" in her essay on the role of printed and manuscript texts in the royalist and Anglican experience in exile during the 1650s. …

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