Unruly People: Ungodly Religion in the English Parish, 1645-1660

Research output: Book/ReportBook


In 1645, as the first Civil War approached its end, a second Reformation took place in which the Church of England was disestablished, and severe Godly puritan practices promoted in both parish churches and everyday ordinary life. Church lands were sold off; Christmas and other church festivals banned. The largest ejection of clergy in the Church’s history took place, in several thousand parishes across the country. Two-hour sermons became the norm, marriage a civil institution, traditional practices of baptism and burial compromised. Actors were ordered to be whipped until their backs were bloody for performing a play at Christmas. Women were dragged off to jail, and occasionally executed, for adultery or witchcraft. Parliament, local justices and the military enforced a crackdown on swearing, drunkenness and any sort of economic activity on the Sabbath. But all this failed: with the Restoration came a return to pre-Civil War church practice and the repeal of many aspects of the puritan programme. Using original legal records and previously undiscovered contemporary sources, this book considers the role of ordinary English men and women in this process, the many and various ways, not always nice or commendable, in which they rejected religious extremism, including tumultuous rioting in parish churches, abuse of reformist puritan clergy, much financial and legal obstruction and the development of a loyalist subculture entirely resistant to puritan values that was an important influence on English identity to the present day.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 1 Apr 2020


  • Religious History
  • Seventeenth-century History
  • Puritanism
  • Commonwealth and Protectorate
  • Interregnum
  • British History
  • Social History
  • Gender History


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