Friday, September 1, 2017

Recusant Studies's Rising Scholars

History Today asked Jessie Childs 20 questions and one of them was:

Q. What’s the most exciting field in history today?

A. Recusant history. So many brilliant scholars coming up - Emilie Murphy, Liesbeth Corens, Katie McKeogh …

Here's what those three "brilliant scholars" are working on, according to their online presence:

Music and Catholic culture in post-Reformation Lancashire: piety, protest, and conversion in the October 2015 issue of British Catholic History from Cambridge University Press:

This essay adds to our existing understanding of what it meant to be a member of the English Catholic community during the late Elizabeth and early Stuart period by exploring Catholic musical culture in Lancashire. This was a uniquely Catholic village, which, like the majority of villages, towns and cities in early modern England, was filled with the singing of ballads. Ballads have almost exclusively been treated in scholarship as a ‘Protestant’ phenomenon and the ‘godly ballad’ associated with the very fabric of a distinctively Protestant Elizabethan and Stuart entertainment culture. By investigating the songs and ballads in two manuscript collections from the Catholic network surrounding the Blundell family this essay will show how Catholics both composed and ‘converted’ existing ballads to voice social, devotional, and political concerns. The ballads performed in Little Crosby highlight a vibrant Catholic community, where musical expression was fundamental. Performance widened the parochial religious divide, whilst enhancing Catholic integration. This essay uncovers the way Catholics used music to voice religious and exhort protest as much as prayer. Finally, by investigating the tunes and melodies preserved in the manuscripts, I demonstrate how priests serving this network used ballads as part of their missionary strategy.

Dr Liesbeth Corens:

I am an early modern historian studying the intersection between religious, cultural and social history in a cross-border perspective. My work has focused on English Catholicism as an insightful case study to analyse the Counter-Reformation. 

My first book assesses the lay English Catholic expatriate experience in terms of a broad concept of ‘confessional mobility’. I bring to light a diverse spectrum of mobility, which nuances the traditional focus on exile and its implications of stasis, isolation, and victimhood. By recognising the role of transient contact and ephemeral networks integrating mobile and stay-at-home Catholics, the significance of expatriates in shaping religious and political life in England becomes clear. 

My current project is on the ‘counter-archives’ which English Catholics started to create in the later seventeenth century. They accumulated disparate sources of their recent past in an attempt to save theirs and their ancestors’ stories from oblivion. Historians have used the individual records in these collections as direct sources for the sixteenth century, but thereby lose the context of the commemorative culture of the seventeenth. I am mainly fascinated by the practices of compiling the collections: how these were part of a vibrant devotional life, how the collections helped them to make sense of their situation as a dispersed community (uniting through their collecting activities English Catholics scattered all over England and across the Channel), and how they deliberately talked to posterity.

Here's more information about her first book which is based on her dissertation, under contract with Oxford University Press.

I can see why Jessie Childs is lauding Katie McKeogh, a D.Phil. candidate at the University of Oxford:

Thesis: Early Modern Catholic Identity and Culture in the Circle of Sir Thomas Tresham, 1580-1611

Supervisors: Susan Brigden and Alexandra Gajda

My doctoral research centres around Sir Thomas Tresham (1543-1605) and his circle between 1580-1611. My work examines his world through personal relationships, reading, book-collecting, and patronage alongside the more traditional subjects 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 by the 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 in particular his role as a leader of the loyalist cause.

More broadly, I am interested in the religious and cultural history of early modern England, and in incorporating musicology, literary criticism, biography and the history of the book into traditional historical research.

Katie McKeogh reviewed Jessie Childs' book on the Gunpowder Plot, God's Traitors for the History of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland: you may find a link here. And here's more of her publications and lectures.

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