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early modern history, English historians


In the field of early modern historical writing, sixteenth-century English chronicles have been regarded as an outdated medieval form, and they and their authors have suffered in comparison with later works influenced by Renaissance humanism. Yet in the Tudor period, chronicles, especially the smaller, abridged versions, enjoyed a substantial readership and were reprinted multiple times—very often with revisions. The nature of and motivation behind these revisions reveal much about the varying personal priorities and backgrounds of the chroniclers as well as the readership for which they were writing. This study focuses on five sixteenth-century chroniclers, Thomas Cooper, Robert Crowley, Richard Grafton, John Mychell, and John Stow. While the revisions they made to their chronicles often entailed enlargement or abridgement, the decades of religious change and controversy spanning the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth both necessitated and elicited revisions that were more ideological in nature and reflective of the changing climates through which the chroniclers lived. This study reveals how these chronicles are important for the way they shed light on each chronicler’s opinions, mentality, and social status, bearing personal witness to their culture and times, and also for what they can tell us about how a popular vernacular national history was shaped and developed within a broader social context.