How did the 'peasantry' of early modern England react to the Reformation and to subsequent changes in their churches? Were they involved in founding dissenting churches? Could they even read? And if so, what was available for them? This volume brings together a key set of papers on such subjects by one of the foremost recent English social historians. Margaret Spufford has been a pioneer, in the particular social 'landscape' of early modern England, of the techniques of 'total history', and her work has helped shift the historical understanding of seventeenth-century commoners away from merely economic models and toward a perspective in which religious, cultural, educational and geographical factors are also seen as integral parts of the environment of the past.
Contents: Sources for People: The scope of the enquiry; The scribes of villagers' wills in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and their influence; The limitations of the probate inventory; The significance of the Cambridgeshire hearth tax; Landscape with Figures: A Cambridge community: Chippenham from settlement to enclosure; Isaac Archer's Chippenham and Chippenham Hall: a postscript; Who made a will in village society; Families, will witnesses, and economic structure in the Fens and on the Chalk: sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Willingham and Chippenham; The pedlar and the historian: seventeenth-century communications; Schooling, Literacy and Print for Poor People: First steps in literacy: the reading and writing experiences of the humblest seventeenth-century spiritual autobiographers; Women teaching reading to poor children in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; The People and their Religion: The Dissenting churches in Cambridgeshire from 1660 to 1700; Puritanism and social control; Can we count the 'Godly' and the 'Conformable' in the seventeenth century?; The importance of the Lord's Supper to the seventeenth-century dissenters; Index.