IN ENGLISH SOCIETY
ARTHUR G. DICKENS
As one might infer from his early historical studies of Yorkshire and other northern areas, Professor Arthur G. Dickens was a Yorkshireman by birth ( 1910). His first-class honors in modern history at Magdalen College, Oxford, launched his career. By 1939 he was University lecturer in sixteenth-century history. After five years of service in the Second World War, Dickens was named professor in the University of Hull. Combining high-level administration there with detailed research, he meticulously studied the society and institutions of the North, on which he wrote numerous articles and monographs as well as a book: Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York. In 1959 he published an excellent little volume on Thomas Cromwell and in 1964 a superb history of The English Reformation. In 1962 Dickens became Professor of History, Kings College, London; since July, 1967 he has been Director, Institute of Historical Research, London University.
IN A FIELD of historical investigation which involves modern religious controversies, the vice of over-simplification readily asserts itself and the manifold delicate tones of reality are overlaid by the crude black and white of discordant abstractions. That such partisanship has often enfeebled both the selectivity and the generalizing of Reformation historians is now so widely agreed that its grosser excesses seem unlikely to be repeated. Here, nevertheless, has lain only one of the obstacles to sound progress. Working on too ambitious a scale, arbitrarily accepting as typical a few minute sections of the surviving evidence, bemused by the personalities of monarchs and statesmen, emphasizing those facts which happen to fit modern economic and social theories, historians have commonly ended by constructing patterns which bear little relation to the development of the English people as it can be revealed by patient research into personal, local, and regional history. So far as possible, the present writer wants to shun the well-worn themes of high policy and central government, of monarchs, parliaments, statesmen, and theologians. Instead he will take a large area of mid-Tudor England and try to observe, with as many concrete examples as possible, how the Reformation made its initial impacts upon a regional society.
* * *
In the politico-religious field the northern Englishman has proved the peculiar victim of simplification. Even in learned accounts, society north of Trent appears uniformly backward-looking, feudal, and monastic in its allegiances, monopolized by stubborn religious conservatism and constantly tempted into treason and rebellion. Both local and regional writings purporting to describe the Reformation too often restrict themselves to the converse theme, that of Reaction, as if the north could boast no____________________