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Fabricating radicalism : Ephraim Pagitt and seventeenth-century heresiology.

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Dyton, Simon Charles. 


Many godly polemicists in seventeenth-century England 'fabricated' the religious radicalism which they claimed to describe. This means that many of the heresies in heresy-lists and related polemics (what I have called 'heresiology') were embellished and exaggerated through a variety of verbal and metaphorical strategies. This thesis describes sectarianism as it existed, how that sectarian environment gave rise to the polemical claims which were made in so much heresiology, the extent to which those claims were salacious inventions or polemically advantageous accusations, and precisely how such accusations operated to 'fabricate' religious radicalism. Chapters One and Two provide primarily historical insights into religious radicalism in seventeenth-century England (and especially London) and the life of the most prolific heresiologist in the period, Ephraim Pagitt (1574-1646). Chapter One includes new research on the only prison for heretics in England, the New Prison, Maiden Lane. This shows how judicial and penal discourse listed and labelled heresies in the same way that heresiology popularised in print. Together with a detailed biography of Pagitt's life in Chapter Two, this permits a broader discussion of heresiological writing in subsequent chapters: Ephraim Pagitt's work provides an exemplary instance of the characteristics and methods of seventeenth-century heresiology. Chapters Three and Four provide disciplinary insights into seventeenth-century heresiology: they contextualise Pagitt's writings amongst genuinely investigative and scholarly polemics as well as the spurious pamphlets and broadsides which often imitated heresiological techniques to the point of parody. Thomas Edwards, Daniel Featley, Samuel Rutherford, Alexander Ross and innumerable pamphleteers, both anonymous and named, are included as his peers and competitors; patristic heresiology, early scientific taxonomy, nomenclature and natural history are discussed as contexts in which to understand the heresiology of the time. Chapter Five draws upon the discussion of taxonomy and nomenclature and assumes a linguistic focus: it examines how heresiological labels turned names into things and what kinds of accusation such labels conveyed. Chapter Six, with a literary focus, draws upon a discussion of early natural history and metaphor to examine why some heresiologies appeared to be natural histories of heresy, closely related to bestiaries, and why heresiological metaphors represented sectaries as dangerous beasts rather than as religious zealots.






Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge