The minister is much disheartened: clergy and their communities in Interregnum legal records

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Many questions remain to be answered about the parish clergy who served in England’s churches between 1640 and 1660, due to the difficulties of interrogating the complex, ever-changing, singular and often deficient ecclesiastical records of the time. But much can be learned about religious policy and the relationships of clergy with their communities from the legal records of the time. As well as being useful for linking transient clergy to particular locations, assize, quarter and borough sessions reveal clergy’s interventions to influence local religious practice or morality, their complaints against parishioners, as well as the objections parishioners made against them in their turn. With evidence of violence and verbal abuse on all sides, disrupted church services, factional struggles within parishes, resistance to Godliness and a continuing propensity of parishioners to denounce their ministers’ political opinions, religious practices, drinking, swearing or sexual misbehaviour, these sources show that clergy had a challenging task in negotiating the divided religious landscape of the times.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1007-1023
JournalThe Seventeenth Century
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2023


  • clergy
  • Interregnum
  • seventeenth-century history
  • legal records
  • anti-clericalism

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