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The Crowd in Early Modern England

Tutor:  John Cooper

Module type: Period Topic

Module code: HIS00038C

How far did ordinary people participate in the politics of their day? This module examines the crowd and popular politics in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Until the mid-twentieth century, scholarship tended to focus on ‘great men’ – rulers, statesmen, thinkers – as the prime movers of historical change. More recently, historians have become aware that epochal events such as the Reformation and the English revolution were also shaped by ordinary men and women. Why did some crowds oppose religious reform, while others collaborated with it? How did people below the élite respond to the revolutionary politics of the mid-seventeenth century?

The provisional outline for the module is as follows: 

  • Studying history ‘from below’
  • Popular revolt in late medieval England
  • Resistance and collaboration: the Reformation
  • Food and enclosure riots
  • The crowd in the English revolution
  • Levellers, Diggers and Clubmen
  • Images and evidence
  • Radical crowds in the American Revolution


To find out more 

You might like to look at the following: 

  • Walter, John. Crowds and Popular Politics in Early Modern England. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006
  • Rudé, George. The Crowd in History. London: Serif, 2005