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Research

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Dr Natalie Mears

Associate Professor (Reader) (Early Modern British History) in the Department of History
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41049

(email at natalie.mears@durham.ac.uk)

I am a primarily historian of Tudor and early-Stuart politics and religion, though I have additional interests in the posthumous reputation of Elizabeth I and in the representation of the Tudors and Stuarts in modern media, especially opera.

My interest in the early modern period began when I did voluntary work in the archives of Hatfield House before I went to university. The home of the marquesses of Salisbury, it contains the Cecil Papers -- the papers of William Cecil, Lord Burghley (Principal Secretary and Lord Treasurer to Elizabeth I) and his son, Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury (Principal Secretary to Elizabeth I and James VI and I, as well as Lord Treasurer to James) – probably the most important collection on early modern English politics in private hands. I loved working there so much that I went back every vacation during my undergraduate degree at Cambridge and used the archive for my undergraduate dissertation which was published, in shortened form, as 'Regnum Cecilianum? A Cecilian perspective of the court', in John Guy’s edited collection, The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade (Cambridge, 1995). I went on to complete an M.Litt in Historical Research and a doctorate with John at the University of St Andrews. I taught at the universities of Cambridge, Manchester and Swansea, as well as working as a research assistant on the Clergymen of the Church of England Database, before coming to Durham in 2003. I am currently a Reader.

My initial interests were in high court politics, political culture, and the nature of Elizabeth’s queenship, all things that I investigated in my first book, Queenship and Political Discourse in the Elizabethan realms(Cambridge, 2005), and in a number of articles. From 2007, I was co-investigator, with Philip Williamson and Stephen Taylor (both Durham) on the AHRC-funded project, British state prayers, fasts and thanksgivings, 1540s to 1940s. This project explores over 800 occasions of special worship: prayers, liturgies, fasts and thanksgivings ordered by the crown or government, either to seek divine help during periods of crisis (such as plague, famine or war) or to thank God for his intervention. I was lead editor for the first of a three-volume edition, published by the Church of England Record Society in 2013: National Prayers: Special Worship since the Reformation. Volume 1: Special Prayers, Fasts and Thanksgivings in the British Isles, 1533-1688. I am currently co-editing, with Philip Williamson, the fourth and final volume; my focus is on the unofficial and official anniversary occasions, such as Accession Day and Fifth of November. 

My new project is on the visual culture of protestantism in the British Isles from c. 1530 to c.1640. It arises out of a longstanding interest in wall paintings, especially of historical events like the Spanish Armada, which led to my involvement in the conference at the House of Lords in 2008 on the Armada project (to complete the series of Burchett paintings of Lord Howard's Armada tapestries, lost in the fire of 1834). https://armada.parliament.uk/index.html

The new project will have a much wider reach (including stained glass, book illustration etc); draw together ecclesiastical, domestic and civic spaces, and (hopefully!) explore interesting parallels and constrasts between the constituent parts and churches of the Tudors' and early Stuarts' realms.

Related to this project, through work on the memorials to Elizabeth erected in London parish churches in the early seventeenth century, I am interested in how one researches and writes about the past when sources no longer exist: none of the memorials are extant, no pictures of the London ones exist, and other evidence about them is fragmentary and problematic. This also reflects my wider interest in source material: I am joint organiser, with Professor Krista Kesselring of Dalhouse University (Canada), of a small workshop on the records of Star Chamber, to be held in Durham in the summer of 2019 (https://starchamber.ca/)

I retain an interest in the nature of political participation in England from the Break with Rome to the outbreak of the Civil Wars, particularly as manifested through ritual, performance and 'speech acts'. I am also interested in the relationship between history and opera, as a result of a series of workshops I conducted with successive groups of second year students, with the help of Ruth Paton and English Touring Opera, and which was funded by an Excellence in Teaching grant from the university. 

I am privileged to be invited regularly to lecture and talk to new teachers through the Prince’s Teaching Institute. I developed the teacher/student pack of documents on The Reformation in collaboration with The National Archives: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/the-english-reformation-c1527-1590/

Research Groups

Department of History

Research Projects

Department of History

Research Interests

  • Visual culture of protestantism in the British Isles, c.1530-c.1640
  • Tudor and early Stuart politics and religion
  • Political participation, popular politics, and the 'public sphere'
  • Special worship and religious anniversaries in the British Isles, 1530-1660
  • Posthumous representations of Elizabeth I
  • Representations of the Tudors and Stuart in modern media, especially opera

Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Mears, Natalie (2016). State papers and related collections. In Understanding early modern primary sources. Sangha, Laura & Willis, Jonathan Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 17-34.
  • Mears, Natalie (2014). Paul's Cross and nationwide special worship, 1533-1642. In Paul's Cross and the culture of persuasion in England, 1520-1640. Kirby, Torrance & Stanwood, P.G. Brill. 41-60.
  • Mears, N. (2013). Special nationwide worship and the Book of Common Prayer in England, Wales and Ireland, 1533-1642. In Worship and the parish church in early modern Britain. Mears, Natalie & Ryrie, Alec Farnham: Ashgate. 31-72.
  • Mears, N. (2012). Introduction’ and ‘Special nationwide worship and the Book of Common Prayer in England, Wales and Ireland, 1533-1642. In Worship and the Parish Church in Early Modern Britain. Mears,Natalie & Alec Ryrie Ashgate.
  • Mears, Natalie (2011). Brought to book: special book purchases in English parishes, 1558-1640. In Negotiating the Jacobean printed book. Peter Langman Ashgate. 29-44.
  • Mears, N (2010). The council. In The Elizabethan World. Susan Doran & Norman Jones Routledge. 59-75.
  • Mears, N. (2004). Politics in the Elizabethan Privy Chamber: Lady Mary Sidney and Kat Ashley. In Women and Politics in Early Modern England, 1450-1700. James Daybell. Aldershot: Ashgate. 67-82.
  • Mears, N (1995). Regnum Cecilianum? A Cecilian perspective of the court. In The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade. John Guy Cambridge. 46-64.

Edited book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

  • Mears, N. (2009). Praying for Britain. BBC History Magazine 11(4): 46-51.

Supervises