The church courts in Restoration England, 1660–c. 1689
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Åklundh, J. (2019). The church courts in Restoration England, 1660–c. 1689 (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.36388
After a two-decade hiatus, the English church courts were revived by an act of Parliament on 27 July 1661, to resume their traditional task of correcting spiritual and moral misdemeanours. Soon thereafter, parishioners across England’s dioceses once more faced admonition, fines, excommunication, and even imprisonment if they failed to conform to the laws of the restored Church of England. Whether they were successful or not in maintaining orthodoxy has been the principal question guiding historians interested in these tribunals, and most have concluded that, at least compared to their antebellum predecessors, the restored church courts constituted little more than a paper tiger, whose censures did little to halt the spread of dissent, partial conformity and immoral behaviour. This thesis will, in part, question such conclusions. Its main purpose, however, is to make a methodological intervention in the study of ecclesiastical court records. Rejecting Geoffrey Elton’s assertion that these records represent ‘the most strikingly repulsive relics of the past’, it argues that a closer, more creative study of the bureaucratic processes maintaining the church courts can considerably enhance not only our understanding of these rather enigmatic tribunals but also of the individuals and communities who interacted with them. Studying those in charge of the courts, the first half of this thesis will explore the considerable friction between the Church’s ministry and the salaried bureaucrats and lawyers permanently staffing the courts. This, it argues, has important ramifications for our understanding of early modern office-holding, but it also sheds new light on the theological disposition of the Restoration Church. Using the same sources, coupled with substantial consultation of contemporary polemic, letters and diaries, the fourth and fifth chapters will argue that the sanctions of the restored church courts were often far from the ‘empty threat’ historians have tended to assume. Excommunication in particular could be profoundly distressing even for such radical dissenters as the Quakers, and this should cause us to reconsider how individuals and communities from various hues of the denominational spectrum related to the established Church.
Early Modern England, Early Modern History, Religious History, History, Nonconformity, Dissent, Quakers, Religious Toleration, History of the Church of England, History of bureaucracy, Instiutional History, Restoration England, Church courts
I was funded by the AHRC and Trinity College, Cambridge.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.36388
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