A year in reading
Here are some books and articles I’ve particularly enjoyed or been inspired by in 2008. Not all of them were published this year, but what they have in common is that this year I read them for the first time.
- Don McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (Cambridge University Press, 1999). Along with Robert Darnton and Roger Chartier, McKenzie’s work has been hugely influential for historians of early modern books. This is a collection of essays and papers which contains the standout chapter on ‘the book as an expressive form’, which made me reassess my entire approach to early modern texts. It also has a great chapter on the role of literacy and orality in the Treaty of Waitangi.
- Harold Love, Scribal Publication in Seventeenth Century England (University of Massachusetts Press, 1998). A brilliant work of synthesis that serves as a corrective to the perception that print overtook manuscript during this period.
- Filippo de Vivo, Information and Communication in Venice (Oxford University Press, 2007). Looks at political communication in early modern Venice in all its forms – whether ritual, manuscript, print, dress, graffiti, or rumour. The book argues that these formed a web of communication, each part of which cannot be understood without reference to the others. A fantastic integration of the history of political elites and history from below.
- Michael Braddick, God’s Fury, England’s Fire (Penguin, 2008). I posted some more detailed thoughts about this here.
- Alastair Bellany, ‘The Murder of John Lambe: Crowd Violence, Court Scandal and Popular Politics in Early Seventeenth-Century England’, Past & Present (2008), 200, pp. 37-76. I am a huge fan of Bellany’s monograph on the politics of court scandal, which is a really successful example of detailed and interdisciplinary contextualisation of a particular incident. This article uses ballad accounts of Lambe’s murder as a way in to understanding wider popular violence in early modern England.
- William Beik, ‘The violence of the French crowd from charivari to revolution’, Past and Present (2007), 197, pp. 75-110. While the trend towards microhistories of popular politics has dramatically changed our understanding of them, articles like this take individual studies and synthesise them to look at longer-term trends.
- Kevin Sharpe, Remapping Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2000). The closest thing there is to a manifesto for the benefits of interdisciplinary work on this period.
The other book I’m looking forward to is Helen Pierce’s Unseemly Pictures (Yale University Press, 2008) which looks at graphic satire in seventeenth-century England. It’s only just come out in the past few days. Previously Pierce has published a brilliant article on satirical pictures of Archbishop Laud in the Historical Journal. I’m just hoping the Gower Street branch of Waterstone’s still has a copy of the book when I pop in later in the week!