Sunday, May 12, 2013

Edits In Progress

I spent the better part of the day researching the conclusions of the various historians noted in my previous post on the treatment of dissenters during the Restoration. I'm about to call it a day due to an eye-strain headache, but thought it would help (me) to record my thoughts here so I can remember some of what I'm on about tomorrow.
  1. I've picked up all the easy comments. 'Nuff said.
  2. In looking at what other historians have written on the subject, it looks like I am in the majority. Tough luck there, in a way, as it has made it more difficult to find opposing opinions. I could use Whig historians, but I doubt I'll find any recent scholarship from that school.
  3. Regardless, I am adding a paragraph after my (two-paragraph) introduction to discuss these other opinions. It is "mostly done" at this point, and will hopefully be all done by the end of day tomorrow. After that, I'll add supporting bits from other historians where relevant throughout the paper.
  4. Then it's double check the footnotes to make sure they didn't get borked by the edits, proof read a few times, and call it a paper. Woot!
Time for a martini. I've earned it. If you would like to watch something funny and tangentially related (it's set in the Stuart era), check out the following:

Weddings in the Stuart Era.


- Rod

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Feedback Received!

I received Professor Nice's feedback earlier today. Here's a summary of his critiques of my first draft, as I interpret them:
  1. Overall, my citing using Chicago was okay; there were some mistakes, but overall I seem to have a handle on it. More importantly, however, is how I used the sources. I am going to go back through the most critical secondary sources and discuss their conclusions vis-a-vis my thesis in order to bolster my argument. I will take another look at Walsham's Charitable Hatred, Lamont's Last Witnesses and Puritanism and Historical Controversy, Harris's London Crowds, Kenyon's Popish Plot, and perhaps a few others. That should provide enough grist for the argumentation mill!
  2. I used more passive voice than I had intended. It was also more than I was aware of using, really. I am not sure if it's two years spent studying Latin - where the passive voice is a "thing" - or just a personal foible. Professor Nice pointed out some places where it was problematic, and some where it was not, but I do need to get a handle on this, regardless.
  3. One of the biggest challenges is how to incorporate Catholicism within my argument in a meaningful way, without lumping them in with the balance of "nonconformity" in a way that makes them seem like any other Restoration religious subculture. Catholics and how they were perceived by the Protestant majority are very important to the discussion about Restoration London, but they are - in several ways - quite distinct from the many diverse Protestant sects  in how they were perceived by the Anglican faithful. In many ways, the challenge lies in the fact that they are simultaneously essential to the discussion, while also being perceived as standing apart from the rest of the nonconformist population in a way that made them unique in the Restoration environment. They are simultaneously part of the larger, dissenting group, yet distinct from it at the same time. In the end, it may be that a Quakers versus Catholics contrast might have proved more fruitful, but I am committed to the "Muggletonian Option," at least for this project.
Because it is my desire to spend the rest of my professional life engaged in research, writing and - hopefully - teaching at the university level, it is important that I make this paper the best it can be within the confines - space and time - allowed. While I am too exhausted today to make any significant progress, I am looking forward to the challenge presented by Nice's feedback... and hope that I can rise to the occasion!


- Rod

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Things Learned - Part Three

I knew nothing about Charles II - outside his presentation in a music video by the good (and very funny) people at Horrible Histories - before beginning my research. After the trials and tribulations of the English Reformation, the reign of Bloody Mary, attempts by the Elizabethan crown to enforce religious conformity, the religious conflicts under Charles I and the Civil Wars, I was delighted to discover that this Restoration monarch had no desire to see any more of that unpleasantness in his kingdom.

Charles II, at the National Portrait Gallery, London

During the process that saw him restored to the thrown (he had fled England in 1651 after being defeated by Cromwell at Worcester) Charles issued the Declaration of Breda, part of which reads

And because the passion and uncharitableness (sic) of the times have produced several opinions in religion, by which men are engaged in parties and animosities against each other (which, when they shall hereafter unite in a freedom of conversation, will be composed or better understood), we do declare a liberty to tender consciences, and that no man shall be disquieted or called in question for differences of opinion in matter of religion, which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom; and that we shall be ready to consent to such an Act of Parliament, as, upon mature deliberation, shall be offered to us, for the full granting that indulgence.

Those of "tender consciences" to whom Charles was referring were the many nonconformists that were about to become his subjects. They made up a not-insignificant portion of the population too; in London perhaps as much as 20% of the three-hundred-thousand residents (for how this figure was derived, you'll have to read my paper - ha!).

Charles tried to be as good as his word, but with limited success. Parliament was often at loggerheads with the king, and stymied most of his attempts at enacting legislation that would treat dissenters less harshly. For example, he attempted to issue a "Declaration to Tender Consciences," that would allow him to suspend the penalties for religious nonconformity. Unfortunately, Charles gave Parliament the final word, and it failed to pass the Commons where its members feared it would only increase the number of dissenters (Charles proposed that it was the more draconian laws that had caused a rise in nonconformism, an argument that helped to see his Declaration through the House of Lords).

One of Charles's few victories in religious toleration became the central argument at Lodowick Muggleton's trial. He should have benefited from an Act of Indulgence issued in 1673, but Lord Chief Justice Rainsford, desiring to see Muggleton punished regardless of actual guilt, circumvented that Act by insisting that the evidence at hand had been published after 1673, even though there was nothing to support such a conclusion.

- Rod

Friday, May 3, 2013

Things Learned - Part Two

Researching views on dissent in Restoration London revealed a more complex culture than I had anticipated. From the perspective of the Anglican faithful, even those that took an overall negative view of nonconformism exhibited the tendency to look at some dissenting sects more harshly than others. For example, persecution of Puritans and Presbyterians appears to have been less frequent and less harsh than that experienced by sects with doctrines that varied more dramatically from those of Anglican orthodoxy. Catholics, if the number of people tried as traitors for being Catholic clergy at the Old Bailey is any indication, were persecuted with more regularity and with greater severity than the rest, with the occasional exception of the Quakers.

The English Reformation began during the reign of Henry VIII.

Within the context of the period, and taking into consideration the religious environment in England for the preceding one-hundred-and-fifty years, these results are not really surprising. One of the results of the English Reformation was the vilification of the Roman Church, a process similar to the one that took place in all the Protestant states in Europe. What is perhaps more surprising is the way in which dissenters viewed other dissenting groups. Not only did nonconformist sects fail to present a unified front, but they often looked at each other in much the same way as the orthodox community viewed dissent overall. In his Neck of the Quakers Broken, Lodowick Muggleton recorded an inter-sectarian dialogue between himself and several Quakers. Both sides take a decidedly polemical approach to the discussion, slinging insults and invective back and forth. Dissenters would also criticize the Anglican Church, finding fault with the Book of Common Prayer, and practices that they saw as being too close to those of Catholicism.

The outcome of this plurality of opinion is that there was no consensus at any level of London society on how to deal with religious nonconformism. And that is the gist of my argument.

- Rod

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Things Learned - Part One

Religious sectarianism - aka dissension or nonconformism - had been on the rise throughout the seventeenth century in London. One of the side effects of the Reformations (Protestant, Radical, and English), by the time Charles II assumed the throne in 1661, there were scores of groups to choose from if one were not satisfied with the Anglican Church. In his Heresiography, Ephraim Pagitt lists over fifty sects, while Thomas Edwards's Gangraena catalogs over one hundred and fifty. It is important not to take either of these works at face value for obvious reasons - it is likely that at least some of the sects described never existed - but the numbers are quite telling, regardless.

One of the questions I had - one which proved too involved to address adequately with the present project - was, "why so much dissent?" At the outset of the sixteenth century, England was more-or-less uniformly Roman Catholic, the exceptions being the Lollards and perhaps a few other very small movements. Henry VII's marital disputes led to the separation of England from the Roman see, a process which culminated in 1534 with the Acts of Supremacy and others. During this process, reformation ideas were being introduced into England from the continent. In the turmoil that was to be England's fate until the end of the following century, nonconformist religious groups would multiply.

A 1651 woodcut, allegedly detailing Ranter practices.

From the perspective of the Anglican faithful, dissent and its practitioners appeared unusual and difficult to understand. The woodcut above is a good example. The Ranters were a pantheistic dissenting sect that embraced a different set of moral strictures that diverged markedly from orthodox beliefs. The above woodcut is typical of the types of accusations leveled at nonconformists, claiming that they were sexually licentious, gluttonous, and, if the illustration in the upper left-hand corner of the piece can be believed, gross, or at least really weird.

 A woodcut showing the practices of the Adamites.

The above woodcut of the Adamites, a sect distinct from the Ranters, accuses them of similar practices (the fact that one of them is missing his head is no doubt a commentary on the perceived quality of the people who followed Adamite doctrine). These are the same types of accusations leveled against religious minority groups throughout history, and in that regard should not be surprising. For present purposes, it is enough to note that many of the faithful believed that dissenters followed unusual, non-Christian doctrine that caused them to behave in anti-social, and therefore potentially dangerous, ways. It was this attitude that made many willing to either participate in, or tacitly approve of, persecution of nonconformists throughout this period.

- Rod

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Reflections on the First Draft

After several rounds of proofreading, editing, and incorporating the comments that Professor Nice made on the "two paragraphs" assignment, the first draft of my research paper is complete. Getting to this point was a process, to be sure, and I would like to take a moment to reflect on it, both for my own benefit - to see where I might do something better in the future - and for anyone who might - against all odds - actually read this.

Gathering Sources
I felt fairly confident with my researching skills at the outset, but it turns out I have learned a lot of new, helpful tips this semester, between Professor Nice's lectures, and the input of some of my more savvy classmates. Thanks to all of the above, I was able to quickly find many primary and secondary sources.

It is possible - often easy - to find primary sources online, if one knows where to look. That said, some are accessible only via a hefty subscription fee. For example, Early English Books Online (EEBO), provides facsimile editions of manuscripts, many of which would have been useful to me, and likely to many of my classmates. Unfortunately, they require an institutional level subscription. Semi-fortunately, they provide print-on-demand copies, readily available through Pagitt's Heresiography was essential to my project, so it was worth the $18.53 price tag to me. (I also picked up a copy of John Craig's Theologiae Christianae Principia Mathematica so I can practice my Latin translation over the summer - woot!)

Secondary sources tend to be more accessible, but not universally so. They were, in some ways, more challenging to find for my project than the primary sources were. What finally led to success was some time spent on JSTOR, looking at articles on religion during the Reformation. Not only did I find many relevant pieces - most of which I was not able to usefully incorporate due to space limitations - but their bibliographic information led me to the secondary sources that would end up being critical to my project.

Reading and Interpreting Sources
While finding sources can be challenging, the real time sink is in reading and interpreting them. When time is an issue - as it was for this project - it is simply not possible to read every potential source from cover to cover to determine whether it useful. The first step for me is to scan every document to identify the author's thesis, main arguments, sources, and conclusions. That usually allows me to - with some confidence - determine whether a particular source should go into the "use," "toss," or "maybe" pile. Although it probably goes without saying, the first category are those that I will definitely incorporate into my work, the second will be ignored, and the third will be kept on hand in case they turn out to be more useful than first imagined.

Of course, this quick scan is not enough when it comes to gathering data or delving into a subject to the extent needed in order to craft an effective argument, yet, as undergraduate students, we do not have the time to read every resource in its entirety. My solution is to speed read documents, the intent being to identify those chapters, sections, or pages of a document that are critical to my research and therefore require a detailed reading. In the process, I'll annotate the book (if I own it), or leave annotated index cards at the important pages (if I've borrowed it), so that I can remember where the relevant bits are and why I thought them important when get around to writing. If I don't do this, I may as well have not bothered, because I'll have to do it all over again later. My memory has not improved with age...

That said, I do not take extensive notes but rarely, or in cases where it is not possible for me to hold onto the resource until writing is complete. Normally, I just note the important pages. When I come back, the reason why I noted them typically becomes immediately apparent.

This is the part of the process that I love most, which is saying something, because I enjoy all of it, from start to finish. I typically begin writing early in the research process, as it helps me to coalesce and refine my thoughts. While I often have to discard large portions of this initial writing as a result, it is helpful in understanding topics that are new to me (as the current one was), and in the long run saves me a lot of frustration - and likely time.

This is a good place to comment on when to know when to discard writing. The Writing History book discusses this, and I have to say that was perhaps the only useful part of the book to me, personally, as it reinforced a conclusion to which I had been long in coming: you have to learn when to let go of words, sentences, paragraphs, even entire chapters, of your writings - regardless of how well they might be written, or how clever you think your wording might be. This is a lesson I have learned only within the last two years - and a hard lesson it was too. It can be really painful to highlight a passage you spent some time on and press the <DELETE> key, but it is often the best decision. As noted previously in this blog, I started this paper several times before finally settling on the version that will be submitted this Friday. The other versions, while well written from a technical standpoint, were not going to be successful in terms of the rubric for this assignment; ultimately, they had to go. There are vestigial remains in the current version, but overall, I discarded perhaps ten pages of text between all prior attempts.

That's the writing game. Take a lesson from the Buddha, and learn to be detached from your authorial efforts in terms of knowing when to send them into the electronic rubbish bin. Your output will improve for it.

Proofreading your own work is the hardest part of the process, not because it's hard to read your own work - if you write well it can be a great ego boost - but because it's hard to read your own work objectively. When proofreading, my mind plays tricks on me, making me see things as I envision them, not as they actually exist on the page. I have never published anything where I had to act as my own editor where I did not have the experience of opening up the first copy off the press to a random page and immediately spotting an error I missed during proofreading. Seriously, every time.

The take-away from this experience for me has been to proofread multiple times, if I cannot find someone to proofread for me. Read it over and over, if time allows. For projects like the one currently under discussion, there does come a point of diminishing marginal returns where one more read seems so painful that - even though you suspect you'll find yet another something you can correct or improve upon - you have to say "enough is enough," and submit regardless. After all, this is an undergraduate level paper: there is no money involved and it is highly likely that no one other than you and your professor will read it. But, until you reach that point, try to find time for another read. I guarantee that you will find something that can be improved with a bit of tweaking or rewording.

On this paper, I went through a half-dozen proofreads before I hit the above-mentioned wall. The last round was sort of painful, but it was worth it, resulting in several improved passages where I had thought them adequate before.

Speaking of being sick of reading, if you've come this far, you are either easily entertained, strongly disagree or disagree with the above, or are really, really, really bored. Regardless, thanks for slogging through.


- Rod