"Community" and "belonging" in early modern England : life in the Trent River Valley, 1520-1640

Author:
Smith, Hilary Borbon, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Advisors:
Havran, Martin J., Department of History, University of Virginia
Schutte, Anne, Department of History, University of Virginia
Abstract:

In this dissertation, I address three major historical topics driven by current developments in the field of English local history. I investigate the meaning of "community" and "belonging" for one area of England during the period 1520 to 1640. Secondly, I seek to understand the dynamics of town life in Leicester, Nottingham and Loughborough. Finally, I begin what will be for me and others an on-going investigation of Professor Charles Phythian-Adams' hypotheses regarding the existence of cultural provinces, based on river-drainage systems, in early modern England.

Many factors contributed to the development of multiple "communities" and to people's sense of belonging to them. I investigate the relationships that persons in Leicester, Nottingham and Loughborough had within their towns and with persons from the wider region. The topics addressed include: the roles of men and women in early modern English ┬Ěsociety; the importance of custom and ritual to people's sense of belonging; individual and communal responses to "outsiders;" the challenges to order posed by dearth, plague, poverty and crime; and the evidence for a regional character of "community."

I argue that physical proximity and shared concerns were of primary importance in shaping a person's sense of belonging, thereby creating "community." These two criteria for community awareness often existed simultaneously, but not always. Common concerns could create a sense of solidarity among persons who did not have regular contact and did not know each other well. I maintain that the circumstances of Leicester, Nottingham and Loughborough's location in the region, and in relationship to each other, resulted in a shared culture unique to them. Phythian-Adarns states that total homogeneity within the limits of a cultural province is not to be expected. Instead, we should find recognizable similarities between places within a province, and a province should have served as a generally focused "arena" of influence and regional interaction. Based on my conclusions about "community" and "belonging" for the three towns, I maintain that the Trent River Valley region was a cultural province.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

Degree:
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Language:
English
Rights:
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date:
1997