Call for Papers: Writing Faith and Place in Early Modern Britain (April 2024)


Writing Faith and Place in Early Modern Britain

17th–19th April, University of Exeter

This conference will explore literary and religious cultures across the regions of early-modern Britain, the counties and provincial centres, outside of London from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. We are interested in the writing of places, of local communities, and in particular of religious identities. Several key writers of the period are strongly associated with certain localities (e.g. Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney Herbert in Wiltshire, Thomas Browne in Norwich, Robert Herrick in Devon, Lucy Hutchinson in Nottinghamshire, Henry Vaughan in Brecknockshire, John Bunyan in Bedford, William Cowper and John Newton in Olney). A far wider range of lesser-known and sometimes anonymous writers, from a range of social classes, spent writing lives outside of London; their writings imagine their place in local spaces and communities. Faith forms a central theme of much of this work: religion not only motivated the most common and best-preserved records of provincial literary culture, but was also central to shaping community life in the centuries following the Reformation.

Literature of the early-modern localities includes sermons and spiritual autobiographies, but more besides: poetry, pamphlets, journalism, philosophical treatises, manuscript notebooks, and letters. We are interested in how such texts fashion a sense of locality, how they project ideas of community and readership, and how they evoke the shared spaces, networks, histories, and religious values of their neighbourhood. We are also interested in how such texts participate in national controversies at a local level, how they situate their community within the period’s reformations and revolutions, and how this included participating in conflict. And we are keen to trace the networks of patronage, preaching, and publishing that connected local literary production with the capital.

Papers may focus on a broad region, or a single community; may provide a local angle on one key figure; or may trace a nationwide issue through several local case studies. They may include literary analysis, theological or religious study, bibliography, or social or local history, and more. General enquiries and expressions of interest are welcome.

Our interests emerge from the Leverhulme-funded project ReConEx (“Writing Religious Conflict and Community in Exeter, 1500-1750”), which has shed new light on the breadth and vibrancy of writing produced in Exeter and Devon throughout the early-modern period. This has captured the rival community-forming and conflicts between different strands of Anglican conformity and Puritan Dissent throughout the period, but also the region’s contacts with London and with the outside world, including encounters with Islam and Judaism. We are increasingly convinced, however, that this case study needs to be placed in both a regional context, tracing Exeter’s cultural links across the southwest, but also a national context, comparing analogous activities in localities across the country. While the conference will include some focus on Exeter and the southwest, we are keen to receive proposals for case studies on all regions outside of London, with the aim of encouraging cross-comparison across a breadth of contexts. Keynote addresses will be given by Prof. Mark Stoyle (University of Southampton) and Dr Alison Searle (University of Leeds).

Please send a short biography (ca. 100 words) along with a title and brief abstract (250 words) for a 20-minute paper, or for a panel (3 x 20-minute papers) to by 12th January 2024. An edited collection of selected papers from the conference is envisaged for publication.


ReConEx podcast 10: Bronwen Price on Lady Mary Chudleigh

In this episode we speak to Dr Bronwen Price about the life and writings of Lady Mary Chudleigh (1656–1710), a Devon writer in poetry and prose who has been called a Christian Platonist and a proto-feminist and whose work engages themes including gender roles, natural philosophy, female friendship and religious toleration.

Bronwen has research interests in seventeenth-century women’s writing and literature of the Civil War and Republican periods. She has published widely in these areas, is editor of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (Manchester University Press, 2002) and is currently writing a book on Mary Chudleigh for Manchester. She was principal lecturer in English Literature at the University of Portsmouth 2002-2020 and taught there since 1993. Bronwen is representative for Independent Researchers on the English Association’s HE Committee and is also a research associate at Caen University.


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

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

Friday 21st April 2023

Matrix Lecture Theatre, Building:One, University of Exeter


Registration and coffee


Philip Schwyzer, Niall Allsopp and David Parry (University of Exeter)

Welcome and ‘Writing Religious Conflict and Community in Exeter, 1500–1750’


Panel 1: Writing the Self in the Sight of God

Sarah-Jayne Ainsworth (University of Exeter)

Lady Lucy Reynell – the creation of a religious identity

Bronwen Price (Caen University)

‘Still think on …’: Retreat, engagement and agency in Mary Chudleigh’s Works

Anna-Lujz Gilbert (University College London)

Providence and pancakes: the writings of Rev. Christopher Lantrow


Panel 2: Writing across Religious Divides

Kensa Broadhurst (University of Exeter)

Lymbo yw or’nys dhodho: Does Gwreans an Bys reflect post-Reformation belief in Cornwall?

Paul Auchterlonie (University of Exeter)

What did Exeter contribute to Knowledge about Islam and Muslims in the Early Modern Period?

Caroline Gurney (University of Bristol)

‘God forbid that I should go among the Gentiles’: The Conversion Narrative of Hannah Nonmus




Panel 3: Writing Providence and Practical Divinity

William Gibson (Oxford Brookes University)

‘The God of Heaven shewed himself for Taunton’: The Afterlife of Providence and Salvation in the West

Annie Stephenson (University of Exeter)

Puritan prison literature: Joseph Alleine’s ‘Christian letters full of spiritual instructions’

Thomas Clifton (University of Birmingham)

‘Learn and sing for his solace’: John Flavel and the Mediation of Ministry into Verse

3:30–5 pm

Panel 4: Writing Dissenting Communities

Rachel Adcock (Keele University)

Shaping Baptist congregational identity in southwest England: The Loughwood ‘Proceedings Book’

Rosalind Johnson (University of Winchester)

Quaker doubts concerning the testimony against tithes, 1660–1736

Baiyu Andrew Song (Heritage College and Seminary)

Isaiah Birt (1758–1837) and the Baptismal Controversy in Devonshire

To register for the conference, please visit this link.


ReConEx podcast 9: Writing Religious Identity in Taunton with William Gibson and Annie Stephenson

In this episode we speak to William Gibson and Annie Stephenson about the turbulent history of Taunton in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and how Taunton interacted with the political and religious changes of the period. We will be looking at how this history shapes religious writing in Taunton during this period, focusing particularly on material from William (Bill) Gibson’s book Religion and the Enlightenment, 1600-1800: Conflict and the Rise of Civic Humanism in Taunton (Peter Lang, 2007) and Annie Stephenson’s current PhD research on the Taunton Dissenting minister Joseph Alleine and his writings.

William (Bill) Gibson is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford Brookes University and director of the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History. He has written widely on religion in the seventeenth and eighteenth century and has written or edited several books in the field.

Annie Stephenson is a PhD student at the University of Exeter, working on the Taunton Dissenting minister Joseph Alleine and his practice of self-examination. She hosts a site on Joseph Alleine.


Evening talk with supper: Writing Religious Conflict and Community in Exeter, 1500–1750 (30th March 2023)

The ReConEx team is delighted to announce that we will be delivering one of the Devon and Exeter Institution’s monthly evening lectures on the evening of Thursday 30th March. These events are open to the public and aim to introduce cutting edge research to an interested public. £25 ticket includes drinks and supper and should be pre-booked at
See below for further details

Thursday 30th March 2023

Devon and Exeter Institution evening lecture with supper:

Writing Religious Conflict and Community in Exeter, 1500–1750.

Professor Philip Schwyzer, Dr Niall Allsopp and Dr David Parry 

Devon and Exeter Institution, Cathedral Close, Exeter

6 pm for 6:30 talk followed by supper

Visit to pre-book tickets including drinks and supper.

In a sermon on the eve of Civil War, Exeter Puritan minister John Bond hailed Exeter as ‘a Beacon upon a hill, yea, as the Centre, heart and head of the West’. As an influential regional capital, Exeter was a centre for religious as well as political developments, and played a pivotal role in successive national conflicts, including the Prayerbook Rebellion/Western Rising of 1549, the Civil Wars, the Glorious Revolution, and the ‘Exeter Arian Controversy’ in eighteenth-century Dissent. Through these crises, Exeter’s preachers, poets, and printers expounded, defended, and contested competing visions of faith and fellowship.

The ReConEx project (‘Writing Religious Conflict and Community in Exeter, 1500–1750’) draws on a wealth of literary evidence (including poems, sermons, prophecies, pamphlets, letters, travel writing, captivity narratives, diaries, memoirs, and spiritual autobiographies) to trace how Exeter’s religious identity was written into being and fought over in the generations following the Protestant Reformation. In this event, we will introduce our project findings so far and will explore how the city of Exeter functioned as a sacred space and a site of confessional conflict facilitating encounters between individuals and the divine as well as between a diverse range of competing and co-existing religious communities.

Philip Schwyzer, Niall Allsopp and David Parry are members of the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Exeter. Philip Schwyzer is Professor of Renaissance Literature, with research interests including personal and collective memory, antiquarianism and national identities. Niall Allsopp is Lecturer in Early Modern Literature, with research interests including the literature of the English Civil War, political ideas, and religious and civic ceremonies. David Parry has served in teaching and research roles at Exeter since 2017, with research interests including Puritan writers such as John Milton and John Bunyan and the intersections of rhetoric, religion and intellectual history.

Doors 6pm / Talk 6.30pm / Supper 7.30pm
Tickets £25

Tickets available at


ReConEx podcast 8: Ruth Connolly on Robert Herrick in Devon

‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may… ’

In this episode we speak to Dr Ruth Connolly about the life and work of Robert Herrick (1591–1674), best known as a poet but also a clergyman in Devon at a turbulent time. We talk about Herrick’s life in Devon as vicar of Dean Prior, his ejection from his living during the Civil War period and return at the Restoration, his giant poetry collection Hesperides, and the sheer joy of reading Herrick.

Ruth is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Newcastle University and is the co-editor of The Complete Poetry of Robert Herrick along with Tom Cain (OUP, 2013). Ruth has also published on other aspects of seventeenth-century literature including Cavalier poetry and early modern women’s writing. She is currently writing a book on the body in seventeenth-century poetry and is working with Tom Cain on a major new edition of the poetry of Ben Jonson.


ReConEx podcast 7: Sarah-Jayne Ainsworth on women’s wills

In this episode David Parry and Philip Schwyzer speak to Dr Sarah-Jayne Ainsworth about her PhD research on women’s wills in the southwest of England from 1625 to 1660.

We discuss how wills can be read as literary and religious texts as well as legal texts, and how women negotiated their individual identities and religious convictions in dialogue with social and legal convention through the act of will-writing. Sarah-Jayne is a Team Leader in Special Collections for the University of Exeter library service and also teaches in the Exeter Department of English and Creative Writing.


ReConEx podcast 6: Bernard Capp on ‘culture wars’ in the Interregnum and Restoration

In this episode of the podcast we speak to Bernard Capp, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Warwick, about ‘culture wars’ in Interregnum Exeter, religious divided families in the post-Restoration era, and Barbary captives from the southwest.

Bernard has had a distinguished career and has been researching English social and religious history from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century for over fifty years. He is the author of eight books and numerous chapters and articles (often under his initials B.S. Capp) on topics as wide-ranging as family and sexuality, naval history, radical religious groups, and literary and print history. In this episode we are discussing material relating to Exeter and the southwest from Bernard’s three most recent books: England’s Culture Wars: Puritan Reformation and its Enemies in the Interregnum, 1649–1660 (2012), The Ties that Bind: Siblings, Family and Society in Early Modern England (2018), and British Slaves and Barbary Corsairs, 1580–1750 (2022).


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.