Baptism and Spiritual Kinship in Early Modern England: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Baptism and Spiritual Kinship in Early Modern England

1st Edition

By Will Coster


352 pages

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Hardback: 9780754605133
pub: 2002-12-16
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Despite the importance of the subject to contemporaries, this is the first monograph to look at the institution of godparenthood in early modern English society. Utilising a wealth of hitherto largely neglected primary source data, this work explores godparenthood, using it as a framework to illuminate wider issues of spiritual kinship and theological change. It has become increasingly common for general studies of family and religious life in pre-industrial England to make reference to the spiritual kinship evident in the institution of godparenthood. However, although there have been a number of important studies of the impact of the institution in other periods, this is the first detailed monograph devoted to the subject in early modern England. This study is possible due to the survival, contrary to many expectations, of relatively large numbers of parish registers that recorded the identities of godparents in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By utilising this hitherto largely neglected data, in conjunction with evidence gleaned from over 20,000 Wills and numerous other biographical, legal and theological sources, Coster has been able to explore fully the institution of godparenthood and the role it played in society. This book takes the opportunity to study an institution which interacted with a range of social and cultural factors, and to assess the nature of these elements within early modern English society. It also allows the findings of such an investigation to be compared with the assumptions that have been made about the fortunes of the institution in the context of a changing European society. The recent historiography of religion in this period has focused attention on popular elements of religious practice, and stressed the conservatism of a society faced with dramatic theological and ritual change. In this context a study of godparenthood can make a contribution to understanding how religious change occurred and the ways in which popular religious practice was affected.


'[This] thoughtful book is a worthy addition to a distinguished series.' Northern History 'Charting the changes in the perception of spiritual kinship in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this volume makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the processes of religious change, and the impact that the Reformation had upon religious practice.' History '… by the end of the book we are convinced that the significance of spiritual relationships may have been greater than historians have imagined. It is the organic quality of this book - melding social, economic, religious and political facets of the institution that has allowed Coster to achieve so much. The result is the standard work on early modern English godparenthood.' Parergon 'This monograph on the institution of godparenthood is a carefully researched and impressively detailed piece of social history… The detail and precision of Coster's work, and the thoughtfulness of his interpretation, will make it a reference point on this topic for decades to come.' Reformation

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction; The Context of Spiritual Kinship: The Sources; Baptism and the spiritual community; The concept of spiritual kinship; Spiritual Kinship and Local Society: Local society: three case studies; The structure of spiritual kinship; English naming systems; Diversity and Social Change: The roles of spiritual kin; Determinants of spiritual relationships; The fortunes of a social institution; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

St Andrews Studies in Reformation History

With the publication of its 100th book in 2012, the St Andrews Studies in Reformation Studies series celebrated an impressive publishing achievement. Since its establishment in 1995 the series has consistently offered high-quality, innovative and thought-provoking research in the field of early modern religious history. By encouraging authors to adopt a broad and inclusive interpretation of ’Reformation’, the resultant publications have done much to help shape current interdisciplinary interpretations of early-modern religion, expanding attention far beyond narrow theological concerns. Each title within the series has added to a body of international research showing how the ripples of the Reformation spread to virtually every corner of European society, both Protestant and Catholic, and often beyond. From family life, education, literature, music, art and philosophy, to political theory, international relations, economics, colonial ventures, science and military matters, there were few aspects of life that remained untouched in some way by the spirit of religious reform. As well as widening conceptions of the Reformation, the series has for the last fifteen years provided a publishing outlet for work, much of it by new and up-and-coming scholars who might otherwise have struggled to find an international platform for their work. Alongside these monographs, a complementary selection of edited volumes, critical editions of important primary sources, bibliographical studies and new translations of influential Reformation works previously unavailable to English speaking scholars, adds further depth to the topic. By offering this rich mix of approaches and topics, the St Andrews series continues to offer scholars an unparalleled platform for the publication of international scholarship in a dynamic and often controversial area of historical study.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General