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'Commotion time': the English risings of 1549

By Amanda Claire Jones


This thesis is focused on the smaller, lesser-known risings throughout southern, eastern and midland England, investigating the nature, scale and experience of rebellion in the years 1548-49. More specifically, it aims to demonstrate the significance of the risings outside Norfolk, Suffolk and the West and, in giving these so-called 'lesser stirs' the more systematic analysis they deserve, to build up a more complete picture of the mid- Tudor 'crisis' of 1549. It is argued that this wider geographical focus is the key to understanding the 'commotion time'. The analysis is organised according to broad geographical clusters of risings. Beginning with a detailed case study of the insurrection at Northaw, Hertfordshire in 1548, the thesis sweeps across the 1549 disorders in southern England; the eastern counties; the Thames Valley; Hertfordshire, Middlesex and London; and the Midlands and the North.\ud Microhistories of local disorder are linked to the general picture to convey the movement's significance. This 'episodic' approach results largely from the extraordinarily fragmented evidence relating to the risings. The rich body of evidence in the records of the prerogative courts has been supplemented by State Paper material, elite correspondence, chamberlains' accounts, consistory court depositions, books of remembrance, proceedings of courts of Burghmote, aldermen and common council, and chronicle accounts, among other sources.\ud An alternative typology of protest is offered, which takes seriously the sheer scale of disorder, elaborates the response of the authorities, and recognises important generic similarities in the rebels' organisation, action and mentalities. The thesis concludes that the commotion time's significance lies not only in its sheer scale but also in its 'halflife'. Even after the movement had been quelled, its spirit lived on in popular and official memory, allowing a number of after-shocks to trouble the realm between 1550 and 1596 and leaving a permanent mark on the authorities' response to disorder

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