Love thy neighbour?

Tittle Tattle

A conference at Bath Spa University will explore what it meant to be neighbours in medieval and early modern Europe. The conference Call for Papers includes the idea of neighbours facing each other not across fences (most early modern houses were notoriously lacking in private space or well-demarcated boundaries) but across confessional divides, when neighbours belonged to different churches.

The print above, called ‘Tittle-tattle or the several branches of gossip’, suggests just how closely neighbours might inspect each other, and how difficult it might be to keep personal lives private. In England, as Peter Marshall and Geoffrey Scott point out, ‘Modern scholarship is increasingly coming to the paradoxical conclusion that early modern English society was at once fervently anti-Catholic and at the same time often surprisingly tolerant on a practical and neighbourly level’ (13).

Arthur Throckmorton, a Protestant, was active in searching Catholic houses, and seizing goods, at the time of the Gunpowder Plot, yet he remained close friends with his Catholic cousins at Coughton Court in Warwickshire, staying with the family on several occasions. How many other friendships survived changes in religious identity and belief, spanning the divides between Churches or even between different religions in, for example, the multi-cultural melting pot of the early modern Mediterranean port towns? For more information about the conference, see the Call for Papers.

References: Peter Marshall and Geoffrey Scott, Catholic Gentry in English Society: the Throckmortons of Coughton from Reformation to Emancipation (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009).

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