The social world of early modern Westminster

Abbey, court and community, 1525–1640

By J. F. Merritt

The social world of early modern Westminster


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8773-8
  • Pages: 392
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £14.99
  • Published Date: July 2012
  • BIC Category: HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Humanities / British & Irish history, Humanities / Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700, History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Social & cultural history, History & Archaeology, European history, c 1500 onwards to present day
  • Series: Politics, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain


This book is the first study to provide an integrated picture of Westminster during this crucial period in its history. It reveals the often problematic relations between the diverse groups of people who constituted local society - the Court, the aristocracy, the Abbey, the middling sort and the poor - and the competing visions of Westminster's identity which their presence engendered.

Different chapters study the impact of the Reformation and of the building of Whitehall Palace; the problem of poverty and the politics of communal responsibility; the character and significance of the increasing gentry presence in the town; the nature and ideology of local governing elites; the struggles over the emerging townscape; and the changing religious culture of the area, including the problematic role of the post-Reformation Abbey.

A comprehensive study of one of the most populous and influential towns in early modern England, this book covers the entire period from the Reformation to the Civil War. It will make fascinating reading for historians of English society, literature and religion in this period, as well as enthusiasts of London's rich history.


"Richly historical and amply grounded in archival evidence, this descriptive, narrative history portion of Merritt's arguement is a pleasurable read, carefully nuanced to challenge existing generalizations in the manner that enriches rather than turns down."
(Julie Bowman: The Sixteenth Century Journal: Vol XLIV, No 3: 2013


J. F. Merritt is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Sheffield


Introduction: Rediscovering early modern Westminster
1. Henrician Westminster: Corporate life in a time of change, 1525-47
2. The impact of the Reformation in Westminster 1547-62
3. Town, cloister and crown
4. Parish elites
5. The rise of a fashionable society
6. Space and urban identities
7. The Westminster Court of Burgesses: Neighbourhood, disorder and urban expansion
8. Poverty, plague and the politics of communal responsibility
9. Religious life and religious politics c.1558-1640

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