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    "Verses of My Owne Making": literacy, work and social identity in Early Modern England

    Waddell, Brodie (2020) "Verses of My Owne Making": literacy, work and social identity in Early Modern England. Journal of Social History 54 (1), pp. 161-184. ISSN 0022-4529.

    Waddell (2019) Literacy, Work and Social Identity article (authors final version 01-12-18).pdf - Author's Accepted Manuscript

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    This article examines the social role of literacy in a period of rapid commercial development and growing economic inequality. It shows how tradesmen and others of similar rank used reading and writing to create a powerful identity that cut across some of the sharpening divisions in wealth in England from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries. Growing numbers of precariously positioned ‘middling’ men and women took advantage of the spread of literacy to construct social roles for themselves based on godly work, vocational knowledge and occupational fraternity. Using a uniquely voluminous collection of notebooks produced by one Essex tradesman as a foundation, the article draws on other examples of non-elite writing and cheap print to reveal a broad literary culture that was emerging in provincial towns at this time. Through this, it connects the historiography of social structure and economic change to the growing research on non-elite literacy and life-writing. Taken together, these findings suggest that the existing narrative of early modern ‘social polarisation’ should be revisited.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication following peer review. The version of record is available online at the link above.
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Brodie Waddell
    Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2018 14:45
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:46


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