The 1549 Rebellions and the Making of Early Modern England

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Wood heavily relates the consequences of the rebellions to the making of meaning —how these events are remembered, not so much the reality of the moment. As there are a limited number of accounts of Kett's Rebellion, later centuries were dependent upon these often skewed narratives. Wood outlines how these accounts differed from what we know of actual events, and how the changes affected the legacy not only of Kett himself, but of lower-class society as a whole. By fashioning Kett as just a member of the rabble, the created memory of the events also contributes to the decline of insurrection that begins in the Elizabethan period and lasts until the Civil War era.

The Western Rebellion 1549

Wood makes great use of primary documentation in his analysis of the events; however, his analysis of surrounding events and opinions is the most telling. For example, even though we have no direct speeches from Kett himself, Wood's inclusion of the voices of other rebels and commoners not only tells the story of the uprising, but also of the surrounding opinion and how it shifted from year to year and village to village.

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The author utilizes a wide variety of archival sources to strengthen his argument, especially from Norfolk, the center of the commotion. The depth of source material makes this text a useful resource for scholars. Due to the specificity of the subject, this work might not be appealing to the general reader, although the writing is quite clear and the narrative entertaining. Any upper-level history student, graduate student, or scholar of the Tudor period would find this text appealing, particularly if he or she is investigating class or memory.

Wood neatly weaves a story that is important on its own into a larger picture of the meaning of language and events in the creation of a national memory Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.

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Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. Institutional Login. LOG IN. Renaissance Quarterly. Although fissured by significant social divisions, yeomen, poorer farmers, labourers, artisans and urban workers united in against their rulers. In some respects, the confrontation of had similarities with the conflicts that had generated the rising. But whereas in peasants, artisans and urban workers had risen against the constrictions of feudalism, the social conflicts that generated rebellion in were different.

These conflicts were the result of the complicated, uneven emergence of early agrarian capitalism. The year therefore stands at the junction of two epochs: the medieval and the early modern. As such, it represents a good point from which to view not only the short-term crisis of the mid-Tudor period but also longer-term, more fundamental transformations in economic and social structures; in social relations; in religious practice; and in popular political culture.

Kesselring on Wood, 'The 1549 Rebellions and the Making of Early Modern England'

Economic and social change often occurs more swiftly than do ways of conceptualising society. Certainly, mid-sixteenth-century visions of the social order had more in common with medieval norms than they did with those of the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. One way of describing the late medieval social order was in terms of the mutual interdependence of those who worked the commons ; those who fought the armigerous classes ; and those who prayed the clergy and monastic orders. This defined the social hierarchy as a society of orders comprised of four collectivities: the Crown; the gentry and nobility; the Church; and the commons.

ResoluteReader: Andy Wood - The Rebellions and the making of Early Modern England

Importantly for mid-Tudor fiscal strategies, G. Relationships between the four orders were supposed to be negotiated through the law. In such accounts, popular rebellion is presented as performing a function, restoring balance to the polity and recalling rulers to their proper roles.

There is certainly some evidence to support this view. We will see that in , rebels applied a very similar interpretation. This plebeian politics was capable of mounting fundamental attacks on social inequality. As such, it implies that the commons were capable of articulating an entirely different vision than that of their rulers of the distribution of wealth and power. The Norfolk rebels of demanded a polity based upon a combination of monarchic lordship and popular sovereignty in which small communities formed autonomous entities, linked to the state in a dispersed network.

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Both the rebels and those of demanded the abolition of serfdom; the commotioners of also demanded the limitation of seigneurial power and the separation of lords from the village community. Moreover, the rebels sought to exclude the clergy from the economic life of the village. The idea of the society of orders therefore represented one ideological resource upon which rebels could draw. As an ideal, it exercised a partial influence upon popular politics, inflecting political language while at times running alongside more radical discourses.

This was very obvious in the s and s. Thanks to the Henrician Reformation, the Crown was popularly felt to be trespassing upon the territory of the Church and the commons. At the same time, lordly exactions led the commons to perceive of the gentry and nobility as venal, corrupt and oppressive. These two threats were experienced as linked; in the rebellions of and , as in the reported seditious speech of that period, the commons interpreted the Reformation in terms of the dispossession of the parish community at the hands of greedy, avaricious and corrupt gentry, backed by the Crown.

In these circumstances, the idea of the society of orders, with its neat separation of corporate bodies and social responsibilities, presented itself as an available discourse within which popular politics could be articulated. If the Crown was felt to be undermining the Church, so in some disturbing rumours it was also said to intend the destruction of another one of the orders — this time, that of the commons. While the idea of the society of orders continued to exercise a normative force, the everyday experience of social conflict undermined plebeian belief in the organic, hierarchical constitution of society.

Now, Heywood suggested, those days were long gone. This book locates the rebellions at the juncture of late medieval and early modern popular political cultures. As such, it occasionally looks back to earlier insurrections. Sometimes it does so in order to highlight similarities and continuities; sometimes it does so in order to demonstrate important breaking points.


At other times, it draws attention to the ways in which the rebellions shed light upon popular political culture in the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Both empirically and chronologically, the book therefore ranges well beyond the commotion time of In particular, the book exploits the rich material concerning the and rebellions, together with the evidence of seditious speech and attempted insurrection in the later s. This material is employed for two reasons.

Firstly, in contrast to the state papers for the s, those for the reign of Edward VI are scanty. Where we deal with issues such as the surveillance of popular political opinion, material from the later years of the reign of Henry VIII is utilised alongside that of the reign of Edward VI. Secondly, it is suggested that there are important continuities in popular protest between —7 and These continuities are most obvious concerning the Western rebellion in Devon and Cornwall in , whose conservative religious grievances bore some similarities to those of the Pilgrimage of Grace of But there are also less frequently acknowledged similarities between the rebellions of —7 and the Norfolk commotion time of