Victor Morgan

Place and Season: Some Changing Geographies of Communication in Elizabethan and Jacobean England

Intellectual Geography / Tuesday 6 September, 2011

This paper usefully establishes a contrast between ‘dispersed’ and ‘centralised’ models for the circulation of intellectual discourse. It does so by contrasting, respectively, the Hapsburg Empire with England. But can a case be made for saying that there was more dispersion in England than this necessarily schematic model might suggest? This paper focuses on East Anglia, and more particularly Norwich, in order to make a case in response to the question just posed. It draws on a wide range of manuscript and printed material, along with use of both some surviving and some now lost material culture, gathered over the years.

In particular it addresses the following points. First, do the diaspora of the sixteenth century provide a ‘pre-run’ for the wider continental disruptions of the seventeenth century? Does this ‘pre-run’ differ from that of the seventeenth century in terms of the types of ideas and practices that were involved? Do they look more to a late-renaissance inheritance than an enlightenment prospect? Second, to what extent does time need to be considered in its intersection with place? Are there issues to do with the life course and the annual cycle in provincial England that create occasions that are propitious for the dissemination of ideas? Arising from this is the further issue of the ‘non-paper’ exchange of ideas and the emergence of pre-Habermassian institutions of sociability such as Norwich Old City Library (founded 1608). Third, with the Elizabethan curtailment of provincial publishing, were there, nonetheless, ways in which local material found its way into circulation, even into print and once in print, found local outlets before 1695? Finally, as a result of adopting a longer run-in to the seventeenth century, is it possible in an English provincial context to discern a sea-change in intellectual concerns over the course of the ‘long seventeenth century’?.