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Institute of Advanced Study

Popular Senses of Time and Place in Tudor and Stuart England


This paper1 presents some early findings of ongoing archival investigation into popular conceptions of time in Tudor and Stuart England. It begins with a critical survey of some of the ways in which historians have understood time. Such accounts have emphasized the emptiness of peasant time, the employment of temporal registers as an irresistible instrument of domination and the significance of changing conceptions of time in the formation of capitalist modernity. The paper challenges such views, arguing from the archival evidence of ordinary people’s voices that popular senses of the past in Tudor and Stuart England were complex, multifaceted, and grafted into social relations, labour and distinct readings of the land. Most of all, it is argued that the localism of understandings of time gave them a peculiar richness and vitality. Although it is shown that elites did indeed attempt to employ temporal registers as modes of domination, what is most apparent from the evidence is the significance of popular resistance to such projects, together with the creativity and originality of popular conceptions of time.

Insights Paper