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The James Ford Lectures in British History 2018
The Reformation of the Generations: Age, Ancestry, and Memory in England c. 1500-1700
Speaker: Alexandra Walsham (University of Cambridge)
Lecture One: Youth and Age
This lecture investigates the role played by people at different stages in the life cycle in the making of England’s long Reformation. It tests suggestions that the successive phases of religious upheaval precipitated by the ecclesiastical upheavals of the 1530s, 40s and 50s entailed forms of youthful rebellion and analyses the reversals of the age hierarchy to which these revolutionary events appeared to give rise. It examines age as a stage of spiritual growth as well as a biological phase and explores the role of education and conversion in the Reformation. It also considers some of the paradoxes of youth and age in a society that distrusted novelty and revered antiquity and engages critically with the idea that the authority of the old was steadily eroded in the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Lecture Six: Memory and Archive
The final lecture examines memory and its transmutations over the course of the several generations that experienced England’s long and contested Reformation. It will investigate when and why men and women sought to record the religious changes they had witnessed and in which they had participated, and the forms in which they transmitted these recollections to posterity as legacies, including written and printed texts, oral tradition, and material objects handed down as heirlooms. It will examine what they strategically forgot as well as what they remembered and how they retrospectively recast and selectively edited their own lives as their religious and cultural preoccupations changed over time. As well as engaging with recent work about early modern memory, it also seeks to evaluate the role of the family and of generational transmission in creating the very archives and libraries through which our own knowledge of the Reformation past is filtered, and the interpretative paradigms that shape how we analyse it.