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Re-thinking nostalgic antiquarianism: time, space, and the English reformation

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Nostalgia has long been considered central to the development of early modern English antiquarianism. In the wake of a seminal article by Margaret Aston, historians have readily identified “nostalgic” antiquarianism as a response to the iconoclasm wrought during the Protestant Reformation. Rarely, if ever, have scholars interrogated the nature of this nostalgia for the architectural and aesthetic glories of the medieval world. This article reconsiders the nostalgia of late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century antiquaries with a view to refining our understanding both of antiquarianism and the workings of nostalgia itself. It argues that, although it has long been characterised as an entirely modern phenomenon, nostalgia avant la lettre was an important mode of perceiving the past in early modern England. Inspired by ecclesiastical ruins and shaped by a complex relationship between time and space, nostalgia helped contemporaries to make sense of the divide between past and present, medieval and early modern.



Nostalgia, antiquarianism, reformation, dissolution of the monasteries, ruins, John Aubrey

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Seventeenth Century

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Informa UK Limited