Monday, April 29, 2013

Progress Report: 80% Mark

My paper is proceeding as well as can be expected; I keep discovering interesting new bits of information which I would love to include, but cannot due to space limitations. That's the way it goes with professional writing/publishing. And it's probably a good thing too, as if I had infinite space, it would be impossible to finish in the allotted time.

Here are some - hopefully helpful - conclusions to which I have come today:
  1. The "Collection of Cases," linked to the right, is really post-Restoration by all but the most generous definitions of the period. This conclusion, in combination with my rapidly approaching the page limit, have caused me to discard it from the bibliography.,
  2. Likewise many of the sources found in my Zotero library (also linked to the right). During my search for sources, I included everything that discussed Muggletonism, Lodowick Muggleton, religion during the Restoration, dissension and nonconformism. With a maximum of ten pages allowed, there is simply no room for all 23 primary and 36 secondary sources (make that 37; I found another one today). No regrets though, as finding them all was a rewarding project in and of itself.
  3. After talking with some of my fellow HIST-290ers today, I have to admit that I feel fortunate to have found a topic that is of interest to me on a professional level. Religion in all its guises is endlessly fascinating to me, and stumbling across topics as colorful as Lodowick Muggleton and religion in the Restoration has been a blessing (no pun intended) in terms of putting together a decent paper. I would like to be able to claim that I spent a lot of time on choosing a topic, but it really fell into my lap. Coming up with a thesis was another matter, however. THAT took a lot of time!
Okay, back at it.  I hope everyone is having some success in their papers,


- Rod

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Progress to Date

After the better part of a day spent writing and researching, I feel like things are proceeding in a good direction and at a good clip, with just over six pages of usable text generated so far. Since writing and researching are mutually compatible activities, I am often doing both at the same time. While examining Old Baily Proceedings for cases to juxtapose to Muggleton's, I hit the jackpot with the April 13, 1681 record.

What makes this particular case useful is that:
  1. It falls within the time frame of the Popish Plot trials;
  2. Three individuals were tried for religious crimes against the king;
  3. All three crimes ended in different sentences; and,
  4. Most importantly, one was tried for the same crime Muggleton had been in 1677, but received a much lighter sentence (essentially a slap on the wrist), and the trial generated none of the acrimonious language that Muggleton's case did.
This find has provided excellent authorial fodder for my paper.

Beyond that, progress has been good in general. Having four primary sources on the trial has been a huge boon, and has helped to generate a lot of interesting discussion and support for my thesis, which does not appear until the later part of the second paragraph. Also of use has been Liza Picard's Restoration London, and Tim Harris's London Crowds, for their statistics on life in Restoration London, particularly those that pertain to religious life. I am also making use of a biography of Charles II which I picked up on a whim at the used book store downtown last Wednesday - I felt like I deserved a reward after getting an A on my NSCI-300I exam. Published in 2009, it is full of relevant information in regards to how Charles, Parliament, and the aristocracy perceived dissent during the Restoration.

There is so much that could be discussed on this topic - as I am sure is the case with everyone's topics - but at this point I am feeling confident that I will have a solid paper with a well-argued thesis at the ten page limit.

More to come,


- Rod

Friday, April 26, 2013

Research and Planning

Before discussing Muggletonians, dissent, and public opinion in the Restoration period, I thought it would be helpful to discuss my process to date. Helpful to me, that is, as I am hoping this opportunity will allow me to better gather my thoughts before I take another run at writing my paper.

I say "another run" because I've written three drafts to date, and largely discarded the lot. In each instance, the primary problem was length: there was no way to keep either attempt within the prescribed limit of eight to ten pages. My initial questions involved dissent in general in Restoration London. After a week or two of research, however, it became apparent that this was too large a topic for the assignment. The next attempts examined opinions of dissent - that is to say, what people thought about dissent and dissenters. I hoped that would be a tighter topic. It was, but, unfortunately, it was still too broad a topic for a ten page paper.

Ten double-spaced pages is not much room to develop an argument on any subject, much less one as intriguing and rich as religious nonconformity during the Restoration; I will likely write much more than that in developing this blog. After a lot of authorial soul searching, I realized that I would have to reduce my topic to the tightest possible focus - yet one that would remain interesting. That interest would primarily be mine, of course, but I would also like the end product to at least be an enjoyable and elucidating read for anyone who might go to the trouble, Professor Nice included.

It was with no small amount of angst that I mulled over my project and what might be done to make it conform to the rubric. Ironically, I ended up going back to where I started, or at least in part. It was Muggleton's trial at the Old Bailey in 1677 that led me to research religion during the Restoration, and it is to Muggleton's trial I shall return.

My plan is this: examine dissent, and views thereof, from the context of Muggleton's trial. Blessed with several primary sources, it is possible to extract multiple views on nonconformism from this one event. There is the record left by the Proceedings, a decidedly anti-dissenting perspective. Likewise the pamphlets almost-anonymously written by B. H. and J. B., both of whom saw Lodowick Muggleton as heretical and anti-social. On the other side is a pro-Muggleton eyewitness, and Lodowick himself, who uses roughly 25% of the pages of his autobiography on the trial and related events, a clear indication of the importance of the event to a man who lived to be almost 90. These five sources provide a multifaceted view of an event that was in some way representative of the chaos of contemporary London religious life. Equally important to my research and discussion are the trials of those accused during the Popish Plot, contemporary literary works such as Pepys's diary, Pagitt's Heresiography, and Hudibras, as well as inter-non-conformist dialogues such as those between the Muggletonians and Quakers. All of these primary sources - and others - discuss nonconformism from contemporary perspectives.

Of course, a plan is not a thesis. It has been my habit - in the past - to "back into" a thesis. This has not been due to laziness; research papers of fifty to one-hundred-plus pages have been the standard for my undergraduate work - admittedly an output of production as much a product of typing acumen as research ability. For me, writing is as much a learning process as reading and study, and often I find that writing about a subject helps me to develop my thoughts and hence my argument. The drawback to this approach is that it tends to push me towards chronological writing in lieu of historical argumentation. That is not acceptable on this project, nor will it be going forward in my academic career. To use a colloquialism, it is time to step up.

With this new-found strength of conviction as a fledgling historian, I hereby lay down my thesis as follows:

Lodowick Muggleton's trial, conviction, and sentencing in 1677 is more a reflection of the confused and conflicting nature of public opinion on dissent and dissenters, than it was the enforcement of any codified laws. This trial, juxtaposed to other contemporary events, reflects the unsettled, chaotic, and amorphous nature of London's religious life during the Restoration.

Alright. I hope that does the trick, because I will be starting work on Draft No. 4 tomorrow morning around 6:00 AM,


- Rod

An Introduction

I stumbled across the Muggletonians and their founder, Lodowick Muggleton, while searching the Old Bailey Online for interesting cases to use as a basis for research topics for my historical methodology class. One of my fields of interest is religious history, so my search parameters involved "religious crimes against the king." Near the top of the list of search results was the trial of Lodowick Muggleton in 1677. For no better reason than the somewhat odd-sounding (to me) name - Muggleton - I selected this trial for my initial research.

Lodowick Muggleton (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

As it turns out, this trial was the first step down a wonderfully rich road of research into the religious (and political) world of Restoration London. There is a wealth of primary information on Muggleton from various perspectives, including many documents authored by Muggleton himself.

The titular phrase, "Monstrous Opinions," comes from Muggleton's recollection of the trial in his autobiography, the presiding magistrate using it to describe Muggleton's writings.

In this blog I will be discussing my research, questions, and resources moving forward. To give credit where it is due, I must first and foremost thank the website Mike Pettit has archived PDF scans of many Muggletonian documents, as well as those of their detractors and those who have studied this fascinating expression of religious nonconformism.

More to come soon,


- Rod