Reading and politics in early modern England

The mental world of a seventeenth-century Catholic gentleman

By Geoff Baker

Reading and politics in early modern England


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9124-7
  • Pages: 260
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £16.99
  • Published Date: October 2013
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700, Humanities / British & Irish history, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, History & Archaeology, c 1500 onwards to present day, European history, United Kingdom, Great Britain, History, Early Modern History
  • Series: Politics, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain


This book examines the activities of William Blundell, a seventeenth-century Catholic gentleman, and using the approaches of the history of reading, provides a detailed analysis of his mindset.

Blundell was neither the passive victim nor the entirely loyal subject that he and others have claimed. He actively defended his family from the penal laws and used the relative freedom that this gave him to patronise other Catholics. Not only did he rewrite the histories of recent civil conflicts to show that Protestants were prone to rebellion and Catholics to loyalty, but we also find a different perspective on his religious beliefs. Blundell's commonplaces suggest an underlying tension with aspects of Catholicism, a tension manifest throughout his notes on his practical engagement with the world, in which it is clear that he was wrestling with the various aspects of his identity.

This is an important study that will be of interest to all who work on the early modern period.


'a gripping, sensitive, and insightful account of its subject, which manages at once to enhance and to challenge many ideas found within the existing canon of "recusant history".'
Gabriel Glickman, Journal of British Studies, Vol. 51 No. 4

'Reading and Politics shines a light on a significant and under-used source, and it may be hoped that it will point the way for social and cultural historians to exploit the potential of the Blundell papers.'
Lucy Underwood, The Catholic Historical Review, vol. 99 (2)


Part I:
1. William Blundell's family and friends
2. William Blundell and the wider world
Part II:
3. Reading and the construction of commonplaces
4. Reading the confessional divide in early modern England
5. A Catholic approach to the world
Appendix: Map of Little Crosby and surrounding area


Geoff Baker is Senior Academic Advisor at the Centre for Integrative Learning, University of Nottingham

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