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The worlds of Arthur Hildersham (1563-1632)

By Lesley Ann Rowe

Abstract

This thesis seeks to explore the various worlds of early modern spirituality through the lens of one important and influential figure, Arthur Hildersham. Using diocesan, parish, and national records, and a close study of Hildersham’s printed works, it traces the story of one strand of England’s parallel Reformations. Hildersham’s long association with the parish of Ashby-de-la-Zouch provides the opportunity to examine the progress of the puritan Reformation in a particular locality over an extended period. His role as a godly pastor, and the message he delivered to his people, are considered. The thesis attempts to show that the effect of puritanism within a parish community was not necessarily divisive or unpopular, particularly when it was promulgated for many years and supported by a godly patron. Hildersham’s participation in networks of godly sociability and movements for further reformation illustrate how powerful and wide-reaching such associations could be. \ud As an archetype of ‘Jacobethan’ nonseparating nonconformity,\ud Hildersham’s career supplies a focus for looking at shifting configurations of conformity and orthodoxy. His ambivalent relationship with the ecclesiastical establishment, it is argued, demonstrates that even the most principled nonconformists had more agency than is sometimes allowed. How Hildersham was able to maintain a position of influence despite his frequent suspensions is examined. Recent studies of puritan culture have challenged a familiar radical/moderate paradigm, and this thesis supports the argument that the boundaries between mainstream puritans like Hildersham and those on the radical fringes were, in practice, blurred. However, it rejects the conclusion that all puritanism was intrinsically radical and that its adherents were incipient heretics. Hildersham’s legacy allows us to explore how a later age fashioned and used the memory of the past. It is hoped that this study will contribute to our understanding of the multi-layered experience of post-Reformation English religion

Topics: BR, DA
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2794

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