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The Life and Writings of Thomas Becon, 1512-1567

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Reimer, Jonathan Mark 


This dissertation analyses the life and writings of the Tudor clergyman and bestselling author Thomas Becon (1512-1567) as well as communities of production, patronage and pious readership that occasioned, supported and first received his books. Not only does it illuminate new aspects of his life, such as his remorse over his recantation at Paul’s Cross in 1543 and the fact that he was considered for the bishopric of Chester in 1559, but also it provides an account of his extraordinary literary output. Between the early 1540s and the late 1560s, he composed or translated at least 56 works, which by the 1630s had been printed in 126 known editions. He was thus the most widely published vernacular devotional author in England until the later decades of the sixteenth-century. Despite his influence in early modern England, Becon has received little scholarly attention. When his works are studied, they are simply mined for quotations, rather than contextualised and considered in their own right. This dissertation attempts to redress this imbalance by embedding Becon within the communities and contexts that produced and consumed his books. It argues that, as a prolific and highly influential member of the ‘middle management’ of the English Reformation, his life and writings offer a unique and valuable perspective on the propagation, enforcement and reception of religious change in sixteenth-century England. This dissertation not only reconstructs and reconsiders his biography and literary output, but also it shows the contributions that such study makes to broader historical and literary understandings of early modern England, particularly in light of the post-revisionist project, which has focused upon the processes of negotiation, accommodation and resistance that shaped the English Reformation. By illuminating the career of one significant, but largely overlooked reformer, it furnishes new evidence and interpretations for understanding early modern England.




Rex, Richard


English Reformation, Devotional Writing, Thomas Becon, John Day, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge