Illicit Printing in Early Modern England, 1588-1637

Clayton, William (2022) Illicit Printing in Early Modern England, 1588-1637. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis assesses the role of illicit printing in early modern England, from the publication of the Marprelate tracts in 1588 through to the Star Chamber Decree concerning printing in 1637. In the first instance, this thesis explores the mechanics of illicit pamphlet production. It aims to reconstruct the processes, methods, and networks which underpinned the production of illicit texts and shows how these processes changed and developed over time. It will argue that illicit printers and publishers developed a complex and durable infrastructure for illicit printing, which was both transnational in scope and intimately connected to political interest groups on both sides of the English Channel: a network this thesis terms the ‘North Sea’ underground.

It also explores the broader ramifications and implications of the uses of illicit print upon the performance of politics and the relationships between publics and politics more broadly. It will argue that illicit print became an increasingly powerful and normative mode of political performance; reflective of a growing conception of politics which increasingly came to invoke publics as necessary participants in the political process, and which viewed illicit print as fulfilling an important function within it. In the course of framing their appeals to publics, illicit writers also constructed a narrative framework through which contemporary political events were rendered intelligible to wider publics; a framework which was conspiratorial and antagonistic, and which, this thesis argues, had a major impact upon public perceptions of politics in Jacobean and Caroline England.

In emphasising who, how, and why illicit pamphlets were produced, as much as what they said, this thesis provides a fresh perspective upon the dynamics of early modern politics, questions prevailing assumptions about the extent and nature of illicit printing, and the mechanics of the censorship system, and reorientates our understanding of the broader relationships between print, publics, and politics in early modern England.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Kitty Laine
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2022 11:51
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2022 11:51

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