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172 Reviews Hindle, Steve, The State and Social Change in Early Modern England c.l5501640 (Early Modern History: Society and Culture), Basingstoke, Macmillan, 2000; cloth, pp. xi, 338; R R P £45; ISBN 0-333-633384-9. This substantial monograph is a 'must-read' for all scholars of Early Modem England. It describes the effects of the increasing regulation of the realm from 1550 and the way in which the middling sort were implicated in this process of governance. As Hindle writes on thefirstpage 'it is an argument both about the distinctiveness of the particular period in the development of English governance and about the increasingly sophisticated political culture of the "middling sort" of people'. In analysing this sedimentary process (as Hindle sees it) he provides a new understanding ofthe way in which public policy operated in Tudor and Stuart England. Through the lenses ofthe contemporary conception of economic change and by examining the processes of law in the areas of poor regulation, criminal justice, moral campaigns for the reformation of manners, and parochial administration in general, Hindle aims to bring a holistic view to areas of early m o d e m social and economic life that have usually been discussed in isolation. H e largely succeeds in this aim and in so doing, puts the politics back into social history in a very satisfying way. H e also places the emphasis firmly on the micropolitics ofthe civil parish, arguing that every parish was, effectively, a microcosm of state authority and, in consequence, 'the most ubiquitous and therefore perhaps the most significant politics in Early M o d e m England were the politics of the parish, and especially those ofthe poor rate' (p. 237). Hindle's material on poor relief can be extracted as an exemplar of his approach. Social welfare was the concern of the first generation of social historians but in the English context they have, largely, been studied in an apolitical and congratulatory way because relief was statutory and apparently comprehensive. Yet in the parish of Colyton in east Devon in the second half of the seventeenth century (an area I have researched in some depth), the distribution of relief, and access to land and housing, was dependent on religious standing. But the insights about the political nature of local governance are only 6ne of the new directions that w e can attribute to Hindle. Historians of crime will have much to think over with Hindle's revised view of 'binding over'. And Hindle's general argument is of great importance when questioning the meaning of 'the state' in the early m o d e m period. The book is bristling with too many potent issues to discuss in a short review. Reviews 173 This monograph is the product ofa mass of detailed research in both local and national record offices about the micro-politics ofordinary situations. Hindle unearths the stories of some apparently ordinary people, whose actions appear extraordinary when viewed against the rich backdrop that Hindle is able to draw from his broad and astute reading of the vast literature about early modern England. His approach of marrying a study of local elite politics with the dynamics of day-to-day life could be productive in many case-study situations. Of course, not all the ideas and material in the book are by any means entirely new to Early Modernists, such as the exploration of the relationship between 'the Centre' and the localities, but in Hindle's hands they receive a new shine. There is a tendency to want a very good book to cover everything and a few ofthe current concerns of social historians are little debated here. For example, gender relations are not really within the political arena discussed here. Hindle's focus is essentially on rural England and his arguments could be misappropriated ifapplied to urban governance. In this sense, this book complements the work done by scholars who have dissected the workings ofthe early m o d e m city, such as Ian Archer and Jeremy Boulton in their writings about London in the same period. Hindle is a prolific member of the 'Cambridge School' of Early M o...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 172-173
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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