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Public Duty and Private Conscience in Seventeenth-Century EnglandEssays Presented to G.E. Aylmer$
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John Morrill, Paul Slack, and Daniel Woolf

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198202295

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198202295.001.0001

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William Dowsing, the Bureaucratic Puritan

William Dowsing, the Bureaucratic Puritan

(p.173) 10 William Dowsing, the Bureaucratic Puritan
Public Duty and Private Conscience in Seventeenth-Century England


Oxford University Press

John Morrill, the author of this chapter, seeks both to find new ways of analysing William Dowsing's journal and to reconstruct something of the social milieu and mental world of a stolid fanatic. He describes William as being important enough to rate entry in the Dictionary of National Biography; the journals he kept of his official visits in 1643–4 to the churches of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk with authority to remove from them all the monuments of idolatry and superstition have been frequently reprinted and much discussed, and he has been held up as the model of puritan vandalism in the Civil War era. However, Morrill notes that William is a shadowy figure and that there is more to be gleaned from a study of his journal than the usual recitation of extracts which turn him into the grim reaper of wooden angels on roof-beams, stone saints, and stained-glass cherubs.

Keywords:   William Dowsing, stolid fanatic, Cambridgeshire, idolatry, puritan vandalism, Civil War

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