Religion, Politics, Print and Public Discourse in Mid-Seventeenth Century England and New England: Two Studies
Religious and religio-political controversies were an ever-present feature of both medieval and early modern English life; however, the audiences for such discourse had traditionally been limited. With the increasing availability of print in the seventeenth century, members of both the clergy and laity found themselves able to engage in religious disputes in new ways; in particular, they could attempt to build support for their position by appealing to a diverse public through print. Participation in this nascent arena of public religious discourse allowed authors who held minority positions to openly present their views and, perhaps, to gain enough popular support that opponents would alter existing policies. Taking the examples of two case studies from the mid-seventeenth century, both related to the issue of exclusion from the sacrament of communion, it is clear that authors placed a great importance on harnessing print and public discourse in order to effectively promote their goals for the progress of religion on both sides of the Atlantic.