ReConEx podcast 5: Micheline White on women writers in the West Country

In this episode of the podcast, Philip Schwyzer and David Parry speak to Professor Micheline White, Associate Professor of English at Carleton University. Micheline is particularly interested in Renaissance women’s writing in relation to Reformation history and the religious history of the early modern period, and has recently been working on Katherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s wives. Micheline has also published widely on women writers of the West Country, including women with links to the Exeter area who we will be focusing on in our conversation today. Our discussion focuses especially on Anne Dowriche, Anne Locke Prowse and Katherine Rous.

Towards the end of the podcast we discuss Micheline’s blog post on Katherine Rous at the Early Modern Female Book Ownership blog which can be accessed at this link.


ReConEx podcast 4: Ian Maxted on book history and the book trade in Exeter

In this episode of the ReConEx podcast Niall Allsopp and David Parry speak to our project advisor Ian Maxted on the history of the book and the book trade in Exeter and the southwest in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Our wide-ranging discussion includes the relationship of the print trade in Exeter to that in London and in other provincial centres, events such as the king’s printers coming to Exeter in the Civil War period, and publication genres including histories, sermons, and ballads. Ian has kindly put together an extensive set of tables and data to accompany our discussion – these are available on Ian’s website at this link.

Ian has had a long career in library services, including 28 years as the Devon Local Studies Librarian. He has written and published extensively on book history and the print trade, particularly in relation to Exeter and Devon but also much more widely. Among Ian’s numerous publications in the field is his 2021 book The Story of the Book in Exeter and Devon. We recommend browsing Ian’s website Exeter Working Papers in Book History more fully for a wealth of information and data on book history and the book in Devon and further afield.


ReConEx podcast 3: Anna-Lujz Gilbert on 17th/18th century Devon libraries

In this episode of the ReConEx podcast we speak to Dr Anna-Lujz Gilbert (@anna_lujz)about her research into four Devon libraries founded in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and what they can tell us about books, readers, and communal and religious identities in early modern Devon.

Anna is a postdoctoral research fellow at University College London in the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (or CELL). She is currently working on the project Shaping Scholarship tracing early donations to the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Anna undertook her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of Exeter and has also worked in the heritage sector for the National Trust and Devon Archives. Today we will be discussing Anna’s research for her 2021 Exeter PhD thesis, which was entitled ‘Public Books in Provincial Towns: Parish and Town Libraries in Early Modern Devon’.


ReConEx podcast 2: Paul Auchteronlie on Exeter and the Islamic world

In the second of our ReConEx podcast conversations Niall Allsopp and David Parry speak to Paul Auchterlonie, one of our ReConEx project advisors on textual encounters between Exeter and the Islamic world. Paul read Arabic at Oxford and spent 40 years as a university librarian specialising in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, most recently as librarian in charge of Middle East Collections at the University of Exeter. He is also the author or editor of numerous books and articles in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies and on encounters between Britain and the Islamic world. One recent publication of particular relevance to the ReConEx project is Encountering Islam: Joseph Pitts: An English Slave in 17th-Century Algiers and Mecca (Arabian Publishing, 2012), a study of the first known Englishman to visit Mecca that incorporates a critical edition of Pitts’s work A Faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans.

(Intro music from Johann Sebastian Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Prelude No. 17 in A-flat major (BWV 862), performed on the harpsichord by Kimiko Ishizaka. Reproduced from under Creative Commons licence.)


ReConEx podcast 1: In Conversation with Mark Stoyle

Welcome to the first in our series of ReConEx podcasts. In this podcast we speak to scholars who have research interests related to our project around writing and religion in Exeter and the southwest of England from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

In this first podcast, we speak to Professor Mark Stoyle, who is Professor of History at the University of Southampton. Mark has broad interests in early modern British history, especially in the Civil Wars of the 1640s. More recently he has been working on Tudor rebellions in the earlier part of the sixteenth century, with his new book A Murderous Midsummer: The Western Rising of 1549 just out from Yale University Press. Among his broader interests, Mark has published some particularly important work on the history of Exeter specifically and more widely on the history of Devon and Cornwall, including his books Loyalty and Locality: Popular Allegiance in Devon During the English Civil War (1994), From Deliverance to Destruction: Civil War and Rebellion in an English City (1996), and West Britons: Cornish Identities and the Early Modern British State (2002). He has a forthcoming book on the Western Rising of 1549. Mark is also a regular contributor to BBC History Magazine and has contributed to TV and radio broadcasts.

(Intro music from Johann Sebastian Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Prelude No. 17 in A-flat major (BWV 862), performed on the harpsichord by Kimiko Ishizaka. Reproduced from under Creative Commons licence.)


CFP: Writing Religious Conflict and Community in the Southwest, 1500–1800

Call for Papers:

Writing Religious Conflict and Community in the Southwest, 1500–1800

Friday 21st April 2023

Organised by Leverhulme Trust-funded project ‘Writing Religious Conflict and Community in Exeter’ (ReConEx) in association with the International John Bunyan Society with the endorsement of the Ecclesiastical History Society.

Proposals are invited for a day conference at the University of Exeter on religious identity, community and conflict in the southwest of England from 1500-1800, and their representation in written and printed texts. Proposals are welcome focusing on any religious group in the period (including conformists, Puritans, Protestant Nonconformists/Dissenters, Catholics, freethinkers, Jews and Muslims) and the relationships between them, and on any kind or genre of writing, though priority will be given to proposals focusing on the southwest.

Possible topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • Devotional, polemical, didactic and narrative modes of religious writing, and their dissemination via manuscript circulation and the printed book trade.
  • The role of religion in political upheavals in the southwest, such as the Prayer Book Rebellion/Western Rising of 1549, the Civil Wars, and the Glorious Revolution.
  • The shaping and practice of conformist/‘Anglican’ religion by writers including theologians such as Richard Hooker and poets such as Robert Herrick.
  • Texts emerging from or responding to Dissenters in the southwest including Presbyterians, Independents/Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers, Unitarians and Methodists.
  • The Exeter Arian controversy and the split between ‘orthodox’ and ‘rational’ Dissent.
  • Jewish communities in the southwest, including the Ottolenghi Affair of the 1730s.
  • Encounters with the Islamic world (e.g. via travel writing and captivity narratives).

Within this religiously plural and contested region, individuals and religious groups expressed their convictions and communal identities as well as their relationships and conflicts with others through a wide variety of written genres. These texts include poems, sermons, prophecies, pamphlets, letters, travel writing, captivity narratives, diaries, memoirs, and spiritual autobiographies. We welcome exploration of such texts from a variety of methodological approaches, including approaches derived from history, literary studies, bibliography, theology, network analysis and more. We anticipate these discussions providing unique insights into the construction of shared identities and collective memories, and the ways in which these play out in local histories of community and conflict. An edited collection of selected papers from the conference is also envisaged for publication.

Please send a biography (100 words), along with a CV, title and brief abstract (250 words) of a 20 minute paper, or for panels (3 x 20 minute papers) to by 13th January 2023.  Early expressions of interest welcome. Modest travel bursaries (on request via e-mail) are available for postgraduate students whose papers are accepted.


Joseph Hallett II and C. S. Lewis on ‘A Happiness for Good Men in the other world’

One strand of the ReConEx project is the role of preaching and sermons within the varied religious communities of Exeter from 1500 to 1750. My current research focus within this strand of the project is indebted to a discovery by one of our project advisors, Paul Auchterlonie, who has identified within the holdings of the Devon and Exeter Institution eleven volumes of bound manuscript notebooks transcribing Exeter Nonconformist sermons of the later seventeenth and early eighteenth century. These sermons are a rich resource, illustrating everyday piety and religious practice among Exeter Dissenters while also touching on matters of religious controversy in the period.

While many of these sermons are unattributed, many of those that are assigned a preacher are attributed to Joseph Hallett II (1656–1722), who, along with his father and son of the same name was a prominent Dissenting minister. Joseph Hallett II is a key transitional figure in the history of Exeter Dissent – like his father Joseph Hallett I (c. 1628–1689), Joseph Hallett II was a Presbyterian minister and co-pastor of Exeter’s largest Presbyterian congregation James’s Meeting. However, in the wake of the ‘Arian controversy’ of 1716–19 among Exeter Dissenters, Hallett’s refusal to subscribe to extra-scriptural formulae designed to protect orthodox Trinitarian doctrine led to his ejection from his ministry at James’s Meeting and the establishment of the rival ‘Arian’ Mint Meeting, where his son Joseph Hallett III (c.1691–1744) in turn served as minister.

I will be mining the riches of these unstudied sermons for some time to come, but today I would like to draw attention to a surprising connection that jumped out at me between one of Hallett’s sermons and the writings of C. S. Lewis, the twentieth-century literary scholar and Christian apologist best known for the Chronicles of Narnia.

The first set of sermons in volume 1 of the eleven notebooks is a series of six sermons on Jesus’ words to the repentant thief on the cross: ‘And Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43). Hallett’s exposition moves beyond the immediate context of this text to expound a number of points relating to the afterlife across multiple sermons. As with other sermons in these volumes, Hallett’s sermons on this text combine close reading of the original biblical context, pastoral consolation and encouragement to his hearers, and polemical refutations of those who differ from Reformed Protestant orthodoxy.

Sermon 2 in the series focuses on arguing that ‘There is a state of Happiness for good Men in the future world’ (p. 20). While also citing biblical texts, Hallett develops an argument from human experience for a Christian view of a happy afterlife at least for some, in what we could call a natural or existential apologetic:

There must be a future State of Happiness, because good Men have an earnest desire after Happiness, and are in Expectation of a future Blessedness […]

Nay, there is a natural Desire of this implanted in every Man. For certainly every Man would be happy. It is the natural Inquiry of every Man, for a complete Portion that will satisfy him. Such a chief good as this, is what all Men universally thirst after. The Inquiry of the Many of the world is. Who will shew us any good? Psalm IV.6. That is, any Complete, and satisfying good. This is what all universally would be possessed of. (pp. 20–22)

Yet although this desire is a universal desire of all people, it is not one that is fulfilled in our experience of this life, because

no Man is, or can be happy, in this State of Sin and Imperfection. For here all Men, Saints as well as Sinners encounter a great many Evils. They have a great many things to disturb their Minds, and to render them uneasy. (p. 22).

However, the existence of a desire that cannot be satisfied in this world, Hallett argues, points to the existence of another world in which it will be satisfied:

Since then, that there is such an earnest Desire of Blessedness in all Mankind, and especially in Good Men, such who are virtuous and religious, To be sure there must be an Happiness some where as they pant after. For God would never implant in Man restless desires after that, which cannot any where be attain’d. […]

Now then, we see that Men have an eager Thirst after Happiness, which nothing here in this world can allay; therefore must there be a Happiness for Good Men in the other world. (p. 23)

When reading this sermon, I was struck by the similarity of Hallett’s line of argument with an argument often found in the writings of C. S. Lewis. Lewis draws on the Romantic idea of Sehnsucht, a longing or yearning for some undefined happiness or perfection, a longing to which Lewis gave the name ‘Joy’ (hence the title of his spiritual autobiography Surprised by Joy). For Lewis, glimpses of this happiness for which we yearn can be experienced through such things as nature, favourite books and deep friendships, but these experiences also carry with them a yearning for a completion of this joy that is never fully satisfied in this life. This line of argument is pervasive in Lewis’s work – one place where it is expressed concisely is in this passage from Lewis’s bestselling apologetic work Mere Christianity:

The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.’[1]

I am unaware of any evidence that Lewis was aware of Hallett’s sermon. I suspect it is unlikely, though we do know that Lewis’s prolific reading included some seventeenth-century Nonconformists. The title of Mere Christianity, expressing Lewis’s desire to defend the core of the Christian faith shared across confessional divides and to avoid matters of inter-denominational controversy, was taken from the moderate Presbyterian minister Richard Baxter’s description of himself as a ‘mere Christian’, as Lewis acknowledges in his preface.[2] In his capacity as a literary scholar, Lewis also wrote an essay on John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress.[3] If there is any evidence that readers know of that Lewis was aware of Hallett or of this sermon, I would be glad to hear of it. It seems instead either that Lewis and Hallett arrived at a similar argument for a Christian view of the afterlife from reflecting on human experience, or else that their arguments share a common ancestor transmitted down through the history of Christian apologetics in preaching or writing. I would be glad to hear any suggestions of the missing link.

Sermon MS images reproduced courtesy of the Devon and Exeter Institution.

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; repr. HarperCollins, 2001), pp. 136–7.

[2] Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. ix. Baxter calls himself ‘a CHRISTIAN, a MEER CHRISTIAN, of no other Religion’ in Church-History of the Government of Bishops and their Councils Abbreviated (London, 1680), sig. (b)1r. Lewis also uses the term ‘mere Christians’ in a letter to the Church Times of 8 February 1952 to describe the shared commitment of the Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical wings of the Church of England to the supernatural character of Christianity in opposition to anti-miraculous tendencies in some liberal theology. For more on connections between Baxter and Lewis, see N. H. Keeble, ‘C.S. Lewis, Richard Baxter, and “Mere Christianity”’, Christianity & Literature 30.3 (June 1981) 27–44.

[3] C. S. Lewis, ‘The Vision of John Bunyan’, in Selected Literary Essays, ed. Walter Hooper (Cambridge University Press, 1969), 146–53.


Mr Toogood preaches too long, and can you marry your niece?

The Assembly of the United Brethren of Devon and Cornwall brought together a group of Dissenting/Nonconformist ministers from across the two counties, mostly Presbyterian ministers with some Independents (Congregationalists). It is often known as the Exeter Assembly, as the ministers usually met in Exeter with only a handful of exceptions. The Exeter Assembly gathered twice-yearly for preaching, prayer, the conduct of business, and ‘mutual advice touching things pertaining to our Office, the right ordering of our Congregations, & the promoting of purity & unity in the Churches of Christ’.[1] The Exeter Assembly pooled the resources of Dissenters in the southwest to administer funds for the training of future Nonconformist ministers and to subsidise the salaries of ministers whose congregations could not raise enough to support them. The United Brethren also agreed among themselves to defer to the Assembly in the selection, licensing and ordination of ministers, as well as the discipline of ministers who strayed beyond the agreed doctrinal and ethical boundaries of the United Brethren.

While there was a Devon assembly of Presbyterian and Independent ministers centred on Exeter from 1655 to 1659 (during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard), the revived Exeter Assembly of the United Brethren came into existence in 1691, following the Act of Toleration in 1689 that legalised Protestant Dissenting worship outside the established Church (though still leaving Dissenters subject to civil disabilities). The Exeter Assembly was ahead of the curve in establishing formal collaboration between Presbyterians and Independents – on the national stage, the ‘Happy Union’ between the two proto-denominations was agreed in London in April 1691, while the post-Toleration Exeter Assembly held its first meeting in March 1690. Its cooperation also lasted longer – as Allan Brockett (a former Exeter university librarian and leading historian of Exeter Nonconformity) writes, ‘The union of Presbyterians and Independents in Devon and Cornwall lasted longer than the more publicized “Happy Union” in London. Whereas the latter had already broken up in 1695, Congregationalists and Presbyterians continued to join together in the Exeter Assembly until the middle of the eighteenth century.’[2]

Allan Brockett's 1963 edition of the Exeter Assembly minutes.
Exeter Assembly minutes, ed. Allan Brockett

The minutes of the Exeter Assembly might seem to make dry reading often, but there are some more entertaining moments, particularly if we read between the lines. With the exception of occasional periods of pronounced conflict, notably the ‘Arian controversy’ of 1716–19, and some more localised and short-lived tensions, the United Brethren seemed mostly to have collaborated amicably. However, this did not prevent them from suffering from the familiar ills of meetings and committees in general. Among the rules drawn up at the Assembly’s first meeting in Tiverton in March 1691 is one that seeks to limit side conversations:

That in such meetings as we shall from time to time have, there be chosen a Moderator, who is to begin & end the meeting with prayer, & keep order therein, & silence all private & impertinent discourses; and a Scribe to write such things as shall be transacted in the meetings. [3]

Timekeeping is another problem that might be familiar to us – the minutes for the May 1699 meeting record:

Thanks given to Mr Larkham for praying. Agreed that Mr Toogood having continu’d above two hours in sermon all future preachers have warning given to them to keep to their hour: and that the Clark turn the Glass when the Text is named & take it away as soon as tis run out.[4]

‘Mr Toogood’ is probably a variant spelling for Stephen Towgood (d. 1722), Congregationalist minister at Axminster, but it seems that Mr Toogood’s sermon was deemed too long. Even in an age where sermons of an hour were typical, especially among those of Puritan or Dissenting persuasion who saw preaching as a primary means of grace, over two hours was felt to be a little excessive. Allan Brockett’s editorial footnote to this entry intriguingly notes that the words ‘Toogood having continu’d above two hours in sermon’ are ‘underlined in red ink’ in the manuscript, but not necessarily by the compiler of the minutes Isaac Gilling – the wielder of the red ink clearly felt the length of the sermon worthy of emphasis.

While the formal disciplinary powers of the Assembly extended only to ministers of the United Brethren (with the only sanction available being withdrawal of fellowship by the other ministers assembled), the brethren sometimes brought to the meeting tricky pastoral cases among their own congregations in the hope of some fraternal advice.

One of these cases suggests some odd goings on in Cornwall:

Q. Whether a man who hath buried his Wife may lawfully marry his Sisters daughter. Propos’d by Mr Sandercock as a case now depending in the West of Cornwall. Lev:18,14. Thou shalt not uncovers the nakedness of thy fathers brother; thou shalt not approach to his wife, she is thine aunt.[5]

The phrase ‘a man who hath buried his Wife’ presumably means a widower, despite the rather sinister gothic vibes of the chosen wording! The question arises as the biblical proof text strictly speaking says only that ‘The nephew must not marry his aunt’, leaving open the question ‘whether may the uncle marry his wifes niece? Doth the line of affinity & consanguinity run equal?’ However, the opinion of the assembly, having consulted ‘many casuists’, experts on how to resolve ‘cases of conscience’ (perhaps through their writings rather than in person), was that the principle of the biblical text runs both ways, as well as ‘it being against the laws of the land so to do’, and so ‘this Assembly cannot approve it’. There was a further question to resolve – what to do about any ‘contract’ between the two parties given the Assembly’s disapproval of such a match: ‘Doth that rule hold here, Quod fieri non debet factum valet?’ (a maxim of Roman civil law translating as ‘What ought not to be done, when done, is valid’). To this enquiry, no answer is recorded in the minutes. In the view of the Exeter Assembly, you probably shouldn’t marry your niece, but whether it can be undone if it’s a done deed is left an open question.

[1] The Exeter Assembly: The Minutes of the Assemblies of the United Brethren of Devon and Cornwall, 1691– 1717, as transcribed by the Reverend Isaac Gilling, ed. Allan Brockett with Roger Thomas (Torquay : Devon and Cornwall Record Society, 1963), p. 1 [Tiverton, 17–18 March 1690/1, Gilling fol. 23r].

[2] Allan Brockett, Nonconformity in Exeter 1650–1875 (Manchester University Press, 1962), p. 65.

[3] Exeter Assembly, p. 1 [Tiverton, 17–18 March 1690/1, Gilling fol. 23r].

[4] Exeter Assembly, p. 42 [Exeter, 9–10 May 1699, Gilling fol. 103r].

[5] Exeter Assembly, p. 25 [Exeter, 2–3 April 1695, Gilling fol. 75r].


Writing Religious Conflict and Community: Launching ReConEx

This is the first post in what we hope will be a fairly regular blog showcasing some of our work-in-progress on the project. While we develop focused research for publication, we hope the blog format will enable us to highlight some of the breadth of material available from Exeter in the early-modern period. As our project hopes to rebalance the centrality of London in studies of the period’s literature, one simple aim of this blog will be to show the rich literary sources available when we focus on a local centre like Exeter. This first post reflects on the aims of the project in light of the launch seminar we ran on 1st December 2021 at the University of Exeter’s Centre for Early Modern Studies. We were pleased to welcome a good-sized audience, especially via Zoom, and including several members of our advisory panel.

The event began with an introduction by Philip Schwyzer. Philip pointed out that our project title, ‘Writing Religious Conflict and Community’, is calculated to attract attention from an audience wider than those who are normally interested in early-modern studies. A challenge for us, therefore, as we move through the project will be to reflect on what our research offers to an audience with general or ‘presentist’ interests. This proved to be the case on the night in question, when we were asked why we had picked out the period 1500–1750 in particular. From our specialist standpoint, it is easy for us to oblige by listing the momentous events within the period’s successive religious upheavals in which Exeter played a central role (cf. the front page of this website!). Yet, in a sense, this simply begs the question: why are we so convinced that these events are of wider interest? One part of the answer is that uncovering a longer history of religious factionalism could help to contextualize questions of identity and community cohesion that remain urgent today.

Another question raised by our title is what exactly ‘Conflict’ has to do with ‘Community’. Clearly there was a great deal of religious conflict in our chosen period; but equally the story of early-modern religion (or for present-day religion for that matter) is not only about conflict. Religion is so vital to understanding the early-modern period because it forces us to reckon with how deeply belief can shape people’s actions and identities. This might include not only national, cultural, emotional, or economic experiences – but also, as we argue in this project, a sense of place, of civic and local identity. At the same time, in a period of highly combustible religious politics, a strong sense of communal religious identity can in itself be a driver of conflict. At various times, Exeter was the scene of several groups who defined their religious identity, often in violent terms, through distinction against rivals, even perceived enemies.

Title page of John Bond's A Door of Hope (1641).
John Bond, A Door of Hope (1641), title page reproduced from Early English Books Online (EEBO)

This dynamic between community and conflict was evident in the first of two research papers presented by our team at the launch seminar. Niall Allsopp introduced his work in progress on two writers of the civil war period who engaged in Exeter on opposite sides of the conflict. John Bond’s sermons sought to galvanize his parishioners and fellow-citizens on the side of parliament. Bond’s efforts consciously formed a local branch of parliament’s nationwide mobilization, but at the same time tied to a distinctive sense of identity for the Protestants of Devon and Exeter. By contrast, Robert Herrick’s poems celebrated the entry of King Charles I and other royalist dignitaries to the city after it had fallen to the royalists. Herrick used a very different style of religious language – heavy with liturgical symbolism – to sanctify the links between Exeter’s citizens and royal government. Both texts present fluent and compelling images of a harmonious community, yet only by reading them against each other can we reveal how their visions insist on their violent incompatibility with the alternative.

Image of handwritten sermon manuscript notebook
Reproduced by permission of the Devon and Exeter Institution

David Parry’s presentation focused on a remarkable collection of as yet unstudied manuscript sermons by Exeter Dissenting ministers found in the archives of the Devon and Exeter Institution. Among the roughly 4500 pages of sermons are those attributed to Joseph Hallett II (1656–1722), Joseph Hallett III (bap. 1691, d. 1744), and James Peirce (1674–1726). All three of these ministers were prominent on the ‘Arian’ side of the Exeter Arian Controversy over subscription to the doctrine of the Trinity that led to divisions not only in the Exeter Dissenting community but across English Nonconformity. However, while a minority of their sermons expound their heterodox views of the Trinity, the majority express concerns common to Protestant Dissenters in the period, including the everyday piety of Scripture reading, prayer and sermon hearing, critiques of the ceremonialism and intolerance of the established Church, and the consolations of the afterlife.

Among these sermons are three commemorating the Gunpowder Plot that illustrate the complicated triangular relationships between the established Church of England, Protestant Dissenters, and Roman Catholics. While Joseph Hallett III sees the failure of the Gunpowder Plot as a providential deliverance from the tyranny of ‘popery’, he also argues for a religious toleration that includes Roman Catholics. In another sermon, Hallett’s defence of religious toleration extends beyond competing versions of Christianity to include Muslims, gesturing towards the wider scope of religious diversity beyond as well as within Christianity that this project will engage.

More on all of these issues to follow in future posts, along with a wider range of insights into the process of research and the breadth of materials available to us. One more reflection on this breadth: one thing we have become increasingly conscious of during the project’s first few months is how much we will not be able to cover drawing on the resources of the project team alone. To arrive at a fully representative picture of religious identity in literature of this period, we will also be calling on collaborators, participants, and contributors to future conferences and publications. Expressions of interest are welcome, as are questions from readers.

Niall Allsopp and David Parry