Poor Hugh Peters

I found this in one of Mabbott’s newsletters:

“Mr Peters is now growne soe distracted that hee hath severall persons watching with him day & night whoe are some times necessitated to use all the strength they have to keepe him in Bed.  hee raves much of the divell, his lookes are very wild and his discourse many times end with halfe sentences” (1656).

I also just read (most of) David Cressy’s England on Edge.  He does make a pursuasive case that the breakdown of deference to authority and the general panic of the early 1640s contributed and in many ways led to the civil war.  Early in the book he argues that the word “revolution” did take on the implications of a drastic political change and popular insurrection by the 1650s.  I found this interesting, as I’ve so often heard the argument that seventeenth-century Englishmen would not have conceived of the term that way.  It would seem, rather, that the events of the 1640s redefined the term.

There is a lot of material in this book, and it is rich with anecdotes, such that I highly recommend reading it just to see the use of such a wide range of sources as a means to get a picture of life in 1640-2 England.  However, for my purposes, the sections on print are the most important.  For Cressy, the central event leading to the explosion of printing was the calling of the Long Parliament, not the dissolution of Star Chamber.  While this makes sense according to the statistics he provides, I have to wonder if this places too much onus on the collapse of censorship for the “print revolution” in the early 1640s.  Cressy is careful not to overstate the power of the censors; in fact, I found his brief discussion of censorship to be quite insightful.  Perhaps I am simply seeing something that isn’t there.

I guess that isn’t much to say about the book, but I’m tired.  England on Edge is very useful in showing just how the events of 1640-2 made civil war possible and imaginable to contemporary English men and women.

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