The James Ford Lectures : Generations and Seed

The James Ford Lectures in British History, 2018

Lecture Four: Generations and Seed

Taking issue with the thesis that generational consciousness is essentially a product of more recent modernity, this lecture contends that a consciousness of being part of an historical or chosen generation was one of the byproducts of the English Reformation. It examines the implications of the pervasiveness of the biblical language of generations and seed in early modern thinking and probes what this reveals about senses of group identity derived from a shared location in time. It investigates the various ways in which religious change engendered senses of belonging to a particular cohort of people bound by common experience and how it altered how people understood their relationships with past and future generations. It also examines the pressing questions that devout people from all denominations faced about the spiritual fate of their dead relatives and about how to ensure the salvation of their children and heirs.


The Reformation of the Generations: Age, Ancestry, and Memory in England c. 1500-1700

This series of lectures seeks to inject fresh energy into debates about England’s plural and protracted Reformations by adopting the concept of generation as its analytical framework. Its aim is to investigate how the tumultuous religious developments of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries not merely transformed the generations that experienced it, but also reconfigured the nexus between memory, history, and time. The lectures examine how age and ancestry were implicated in the theological and cultural upheavals of the era and explore how the Reformation shaped the horizontal relationships that early modern people formed with their siblings, kin, and peers, as well as the vertical ones that tied them to their dead ancestors and their future heirs. They highlight the important part that the family has played in shaping our knowledge of the Reformation past and in the making of its archive. They contend that religious revolution had both biological and social dimensions.