Thesis: Sir Thomas Tresham (1543-1605) and Early Modern Catholic Culture and Identity, 1580-1610
Supervisors: Susan Brigden and Alexandra Gajda
This thesis proceeds from two simple questions: what did it mean to be a Catholic elite in Protestant England? How did the experience of proscribed religious identity shape individuals’ participation in elite culture? The relationship between the Protestant crown and its Catholic subjects may be best examined through a study of an individual and his world. My work examines Tresham's world through personal relationships, reading, book-collecting, cultural patronage and building-design, using these to complicate the more traditional analytical categories of resistance and loyalism. Through recourse to extensive family correspondence, access to his library and use of hitherto understudied manuscript sources intimately connected to Tresham and his circle, my thesis will provide a significant contribution to our understanding of gentry Catholic culture and identity in this period, as well as illuminating these immensely rich sources in their own right. It draws on scholarship by historians of the book and historians of libraries to enrich traditional historiographical methods. I have worked extensively on Tresham's personal library and a large donation of books to St. John's College, Oxford, and have also undertaken an in-depth study of Bodleian MSS Eng. Th. b. 1-2, a two folio-volume manuscript work compiled anonymously by a layman, Thomas Jollet, which has resulted in new arguments about its authorship, compilation, content, and broader significance. Through an original synthesis of these strands of Tresham's world, my thesis offers a reappraisal of this important figure, and by extension the experience of Catholic elites in English society.
More broadly, I am interested in the religious, social, and cultural history of early modern England. I have interests in musicology and the history of the book and seek to incorporate insights from these fields into traditional historical research.