Thomas Dekker (c.1572-1632) was a prolific playwright and pamphleteer chiefly remembered for his vivid and witty portrayals of everyday London life. This book uses Dekker’s prose pamphlets (published between 1613 and 1628) as a way in to a crucial and relatively neglected period of the history of pamphleteering. Under James I, after the aggressive Elizabethan exploitation of the new media, pamphleteers carved out a discursive space in which claims about truth and authority could be deconstructed. Avoiding the dangerous polemic employed by the Marprelate pamphleteers, they utilised playful, deliberately ambiguous language that drew readers’ attention to their own literary devices and games. Dekker shows pamphlets to be unstable and roguish, and the nakedly commercial imperatives of the book trade to be central to the world of Jacobean cheap print, as he introduces us to a world in which overlapping and competing discourses jostled for position in London’s streets, markets and pulpits. Contributing to the history of print and to the history of Jacobean London, this book also provides an appraisal of the often misunderstood prose works of an author who deserves more attention, especially from historians, than he has so far received. Critics are slowly becoming aware that Dekker was not the straightforward, simple hack writer of so many accounts; his works are complex and richly reward study in their own right as well as in the context of his more famous predecessors and contemporaries. As such this book will further contribute to a post-revisionist historiography of political consciousness and print cultures under the early Stuarts, as well as illuminate the career of a neglected writer.
Anna Bayman, St Hilda's College, University of Oxford, UK.
'This is a clear and well-written book that makes an interesting analysis of Dekker’s position in the emerging world of pamphleteers in the early seventeenth century. It should be useful to scholars of print culture for years to come.' Journal of British Studies 'Thomas Dekker and the Culture of Pamphleteering in Early Modern London is both a useful reconsideration of an underexamined writer and an investigation of how that writer - representative, in some ways, of wider trends, while in some ways quite unusual - sits within a complex patchwork of actors, events, and market forces. Through this, Bayman offers a vibrant account of a print-centred public sphere ’structured - emphatically not corrupted - by commercial concerns’ (p. 149). The result is a highly readable study, with important implications for critical understanding of ’popular print’ and the cultures with which it interacted.’ Reviews in History '... a refreshing perspective of an undervalued author.' Sixteenth Century Journal ’Thomas Dekker and the Culture of Pamphleteering in Early Modern London is a valuable and compelling study, especially for its detailed and informative picture of the profiteering pamphlet culture of this rapidly growing city. With her analysis of the slippery, opportunistic Dekker, Bayman adds an important chapter to our story of the development of a politically informed and skeptical urban readership.’ American Historical Review '... Bayman’s book is well written and accessible to social historians as well as literary scholars. It offers a compelling assessment of Dekker’s complex relationship to the culture of pamphleteering and it is therefore a welcome contribution to work on this vibrant topic.' Renaissance Quarterly