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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Piety, Politics, and Polemic: 'Puritanism' 1558-1660 (HIST10454)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryPuritans were a group of self-identified 'godly' people in early modern England, with an appetite to move themselves, society and the national church towards a divine ideal. They frequently clashed with some of the more conservative authorities when they tried to improve worship, when they added prayer meetings which were seen as politically subversive, when they tried to impose limitations on community celebrations and popular culture. An understanding of religion and politics as separate fields would have been inconceivable to these people and it is necessary to understand their particularly demanding spirituality as it developed through time, with an emphasis on gendered understandings, how that related to their aspirations for a more 'godly' society and how it contributed to the bitter competitions during the English Civil War which lead to unwanted diversity, regicide, and unprecedented revolutions in anticipation of the Apocalypse.
Course description This course will be structured around a broadly chronological spine, starting with the incomplete nature of the English Reformation at the accession of Queen Elizabeth, moving through initial attempts to take it further, transposing into failed attempts to change the structure and practice of the national church, leading to more divisive attempts to motivate activists through sharp satirical polemics and extra-curricular activities. This will be accompanied by initial attempts to define 'puritanism' as an outlook and spirituality. Further public relations efforts to raise support through offering aid to people possessed by demons, leading to a vicious establishment response employing the means of law and print, will be examined. Regrouping after the accession of James VI & I, coping with particular individuals who took their visionary spirituality too far, a more pastorally focussed effort to make change by activism by 'converting' people to a spiritual discipline will be examined, along with campaigns to make a more godly society by suppressing impious festivals and carnivals. As the common ground with the establishment was eroded later in the Jacobean reign and especially after Charles I succeeded to the throne, the consequences will be examined in three strands. The first is the response to harsher discipline of religious practice, removing the ambiguities that meant puritan ministers could compromise and stay within the church. The second is the related growth of a puritan diaspora, partly to New England but also to the Netherlands. The third is the attempt to adapt practical divinity to the new conditions, mixing greater demands and consequent spiritual empowerment as a balance to the suffering. These strands link to the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642.

The unprecedented conditions of the mid-century crisis turn attention to the different forms of radical change fostered by these conditions, with bellicose schisms, an uncontrolled press, and an empowered body beyond the magisterial orders, attempting to understand the strains, their roots and ambitions. The strains between radical ambition and the demands of governance will be placed within a millenarian understanding of the immediate need for greater social and religious transformation, with Oliver Cromwell increasing becoming the lynchpin that held it together, a contribution that became clear after his death when the tension made the maintenance of control unattainable. The later work will examine the diverse heritage of the century of puritanism.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in 40 credits of third level historical courses or equivalent.

Before enrolling students on this course, Personal Tutors are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Administrator to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 504030).
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an ability to assess and critique particular areas of historiographical controversy;
  2. Demonstrate, through a lengthy engagement with primary sources, understandings of spirituality, theology and politics in early modern England;
  3. Demonstrate, through a close reading of particular primary sources relating to a specific controversy, an ability to engage with the priorities and discourse of puritans;
  4. Demonstrate abilities to analyse primary sources and historiography, prepare and contribute to discussions, both individually and collaboratively.
Reading List
J. Coffey and P.C.H. Lim (eds) The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism (2008)

J. Spurr, English Puritanism, 1603-1689 (1998)

C. Durston and J. Eales (eds), The Culture of English Puritanism (1996)

W. Lamont, Puritanism and Historical Controversy (1996)

P. Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (1967)

J. Morrill, The Nature of the English Revolution (1993)

P. Lake, Moderate Puritans and the Elizabethan Church (1982)

S. Foster, The Long Argument: English Puritanism and the shaping of New England Culture 1570-1700 (1991)

F.J. Bremer, Congregational Communion: Clerical friendship in the Anglo-American Puritan community. 1610-1992 (1996)

T.D. Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain: disciplinary religion and Antinomian backlash in Puritanism to 1638 (2004)

L. Dixon, Practical Predestinarians in England, c. 1590-1640 (2014)

D. Como, Blown By The Spirit: Puritanism ad the emergence of an Antinomian Underground in PreCivil War England (2004)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Tom Webster
Tel: (0131 6)50 3763
Course secretaryMr George Bottrell-Campbell
Tel: (0131 6)50 8349
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