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Parish Communities and Religious Conflict in the Vale of Gloucester, 1590–1690
by Daniel C. Beaver
Harvard University Press, 1998
Cloth: 978-0-674-75845-2 | eISBN: 978-0-674-02062-7
Library of Congress Classification BR765.T48B43 1998
Dewey Decimal Classification 274.241206

Many historians have attempted to understand the violent religious conflicts of the seventeenth century from viewpoints dominated by concepts of class, gender, and demography. But few studies have explored the cultural process whereby religious symbolism created social cohesion and political allegiance. This book examines religious conflict in the parish communities of early modern England using an interdisciplinary approach that includes all these perspectives.

Daniel Beaver studies the urban parish of Tewkesbury and six rural parishes in its hinterland over a period of one hundred years, drawing on local ecclesiastical court records, sermons, parish records, corporate minutes and charity books, and probate documents. He discusses the centrality of religious symbols and ceremonies in the ordering of local societies, particularly in local conceptions of place, personal identity, and the life cycle. Four phases in the transformation of parish communities emerge and are examined in this book.

This exploration of the interrelationship of religion, politics, and society, and the transformation of local communities in civil war, has a value beyond the particular history of early modern England, contributing to a broader understanding of religious revivals, fundamentalisms, and the persistent link between religion, nationalism, and ethnic identity in the modern world.

Table of Contents:
Introduction: Church History as a Cultural System

Part I: Social Form, 1590-1690
Reverend Histories: Geography and Landscape
Parts, Persons, and Participants in the Commonwealth: Social Relations, Institutions, and Authority
Under the Hand of God: Parish Communities and Rites of Mortality

Part II: Social Process, 1590-1690
Circumcisions of the Heart: Church Courts, Social Relations, and Religious Conflict, 1591-1620
A Circle of Order: The Politics of Religious Symbolism, 1631-1640
To Unchurch a Church: Civil War and Revolution, 1642-1660
Astraea Redux: Religious Conflict, Restoration, and the Parish, 1660-1689
Bloody Stratagems and Busy Heads: Persecution, Avoidance, and the Structure of Religion, 1666-1689

Conclusion. Symbol and Boundary: Relgious Belief, Ceremony, and Social Order

Appendix 1. Tables
Appendix 2. Accusations of Witchcraft in Tewkesbury
Manuscript Sources

Reviews of this book:
"In an intriguing argument, Beaver suggests that the reception of the Reformation into the Vale of Gloucester, where it lacked broad support, enabled dissenting religious groups to reject the territorial parish, in favour of the 'imagined communities' of the like-minded...His work is an important one. It translates the conflict of the seventeenth century into a local study that has a wider theoretical application...Beaver has written a perceptive and incisive study of religious and communal conflict in Stuart England, and one that is central to our understanding of seventeenth century society."

--William Gibson, Albion [UK]

"A significant historical study...This is not simply a work of local history, as it throws considerable light on wider aspects of the great conflict that convulsed Stuart England...The discussions are confident, sensible, and well grounded in the evidence...No other book that I know of covers the experience of a region (as distinct from a town) throughout the entire troubled history of seventeenth-century England in anything like this depth...It is original in the systematic way it applies anthropological concepts to English political and religious conflicts."

--David E. Underdown, Yale University

"He turns a local study into something that has theoretical force, as well as taking issue with other historians of Tudor-Stuart England on matters like the impact of the Civil War, 'revolution,' 'Restoration,' Laudianism and the like."

--David D. Hall, Harvard Divinity School "Parish Communities and Religious Conflict in the Vale of Gloucester examines the belief and activities of ordinary men and women in the Vale of Gloucestershire during the last years of Elizabeth's reign and throughout most of the seventeenth century. It goes beyond most regional studies, however, in emphasizing the effect of religious change and conflict on local communities. Class and gender as well as religious convictions are seen as important factors determining social cohesion and political allegiance...this is a valuable study that should interest historians as well as students of religion in England."

Reviews of this book:
Daniel Beaver has written a volume grounded in extensive manuscript sources and combining the methodologies of social and cultural history with the theories of cultural anthropology. His geographical focus is the single-parish town of Tewkesbury and its environs (an area of approximately twelve square miles) in the county of Gloucester. Chronologically and thematically, however, his range is much broader, encompassing a wide range of topics relating to parish communities and religious conflict in the tumultuous seventeenth century...Beaver's reliance on rich local manuscript sources, complemented by his anthropological approach, provides useful insights into the particular local manifestations of dramatic shifts in the policies of the nation state during that time of unprecedented religious and political change.
--Caroline Litzenberger, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

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