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Title page for ETD etd-03312008-235308

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Doumaux, Thomas Cornell
Author's Email Address thomas.c.doumaux@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-03312008-235308
Title Fast days and faction: the struggle for reformation, order, and unity in England 1558 – c.1640
Degree PhD
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Joel F. Harrington Committee Chair
Helmut Walser Smith Committee Member
James A. Epstein Committee Member
Katherine B. Crawford Committee Member
Paul Chang-Ha Lim Committee Member
  • conformists
  • identity
  • puritans
  • church of england
  • fast
  • fasting
  • protestant
  • reformation
Date of Defense 2008-01-11
Availability unrestricted
Despite their prominence in early modern English culture, fasts have remained virtually unstudied. This omission is unfortunate. Study of fast days provides a valuable window onto one of the most important stories of early modern England: the struggle to define English Protestantism and to unite the nation around one vision of it. Thereby, it also helps to answer critical questions. Why did peace last in the Church of England for over 80 years before the Civil War? Were puritans revolutionaries or pillars of the establishment? Was early modern England defined by conflict or consensus? Study of fasts offers answers because English Protestants used them to advance their visions of a properly reformed religion, church, society, and individual. They deemed such reform essential to establishing and maintaining order. Fasts, however, had the potential both to unite and to divide English Protestants over questions of reform and order.

More specifically, fasts were a critical space in which English Protestants created their religious self-understandings by interpreting themselves and the world around them. Fasts brought together an array of language, categories, and narratives central to these Protestant self-understandings. How contemporaries wove together the threads of self-understanding in large part depended on royal policies. These policies had a critical influence directly by themselves, and indirectly by shaping the relationship between puritans and conformists. The evidence from fasts shows that the policies of Elizabeth and James created factions but then managed tensions so as to contain conflict. In this context, centrifugal forces were weaker than centripetal ones. The policies of Charles, however, aggravated tensions and led to diverging self-understandings and increasing conflict. In this context, centrifugal forces became stronger than centripetal ones. This conclusion supports post-revisionist interpretations of the English Civil War as a puritan counter-revolution against Caroline-Laudian policies. It disputes the interpretations of many revisionists according to whom the Civil War arose as “Puritans” attacked the “via-media” which “Anglicans” had established in the Church of England.

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