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The Voices of the People in Early Modern England

February 2, 2019 @ 12:30 pm - 5:00 pm


Can historians access the voices of the ‘lower and middling’ people of Tudor and Stuart England? This conference presents a range of expert perspectives exploring the voices of these people and the methods and sources that can be used to ‘get at’ their mental worlds.

Papers deal with the record of litigation, complaint, petition and sedition. Material from The National Archives will be drawn upon, along with complementary sources from regional record offices. In particular, speakers will reflect on the difficulties of hearing the voices of ‘common’ people, along with the meanings and rhythms of those voices. We will hear the voices of the people articulating ideas about their place in the legal system, their sometimes bawdy and libelous opinions about their betters, the voices of women made widows by the British civil wars, and the dangerously seditious opinions of ordinary people about politics and social relations.


12:30: Registration opens

12:45: Welcome and Opening, Dr Sean Cunningham, Head of Medieval Records, The National Archives

13.00: Dr Amanda Bevan, Head of Legal Records, The National Archives
Voices silenced: hearing litigants anew

13:40: Adam Fox, Professor of Social History, University of Edinburgh
Voices raised in song: Libellous rhymes in early modern England

14:20: Written Voices: A document workshop illuminating how people created narratives, presented their cases, and gathered supporting evidence. Records specialists from The National Archives will show how to access these kinds of records via the online catalogue or through the many manuscript catalogues still containing hidden treasures.

15:00: Andrew Hopper, Professor of English Local History, University of Leicester
Voices of suffering: maimed soldiers, war widows and the human costs of the British Civil Wars

15:40 Andy Wood, Professor of Social History, University of Durham
Rebel voices: seditious words in England, 1500-1640

16:20 Wider Discussion and Q&A

16:40 Closing Remarks, Dr Sean Cunningham, Head of Medieval Records

16:45 Conference Close

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, in collaboration with The National Archives and Durham University


February 2, 2019
12:30 pm - 5:00 pm


The National Archives
Ruskin Avenue
Kew, TW9 4DU
020 8876 3444