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Type: Thesis
Title: Women, Piety, and Patronage in Reformation England, c. 1530-1558
Author: Thomson, Stephanie Joan
Issue Date: 2020
School/Discipline: School of Humanities : History
Abstract: This thesis examines laywomen’s responses to and participation in the early English Reformation, through a consideration of their religious patronage. For more than two decades, scholars of English religion have recognised that the laity exhibited a wide range of responses to religious change, and that in negotiating and accommodating themselves to these changes they performed an integral role in shaping the spiritual landscape of their communities. As a corollary, there has been a retreat from framing religious identities in terms of a Catholic/Protestant binary, in favour of the recognition of a broad spectrum of belief. However, historians have been rather slow to apply these insights to the study of women. Although scholarly interest in women and the Reformation has been extensive, most existing studies have maintained a distinctly confessional focus. Similarly, although patronage has long been acknowledged as both integral to the various religious movements of the Reformation period, and as an arena in which early modern women might exercise considerable agency, it is only recently that the scope and significance of women’s religious patronage has begun to be accorded sustained attention. Building upon this work, this thesis presents a large-scale, cross-confessional study of the religious patronage of gentry and noblewomen in the turbulent period between Henry VIII’s opening of the “Reformation Parliament” in 1529, and the death of Mary I in 1558. It focuses on three key forms of patronage: women’s role in the religious book trade as patrons of texts, authors and publishers; their ecclesiastical patronage, in the form of presentations to benefices; and the end-of-life provisions they made in their wills and testaments. Throughout, the thesis is concerned with exploring the relationship between women’s patronage, religious identity, and shifting religious policy. It also addresses the ways in which this patronage was inflected by gender, kinship, and other personal, social and political concerns. It finds that women’s patronal activities were extensive, both in terms of their spatial breadth – taking in the contexts of court, household, parish and intellectual culture – and their volume. Through these activities, laywomen were able to make statements about their religious allegiance. However, this thesis also identifies elements of substantial continuity, over time and across the spectrum of religious affiliation, even as successive regimes reshaped the boundaries of permitted spiritual expression. In addition, it is argued that while literary patronage could readily be used to pursue specific religious agendas, in other spheres patrons necessarily had to take other, more secular commitments into account. The result, this thesis demonstrates, was a complex relationship between patronage and belief, as laywomen negotiated the altered spiritual climate of early Reformation England and, in doing so, left their mark on the expression of the faith.
Advisor: Walker, Claire
Barclay, Katie
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2020
Keywords: Reformation
early modern
Provenance: This thesis is currently under Embargo and is not available.
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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