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Oral culture in Britain 1500–1850
Editors: Adam Fox and Daniel Woolf

Human beings have developed a superabundance of ways of communicating with each other. Some, such as writing, are several millennia old. This book focuses on the relationship between speech and writing both within a single language, Welsh, and between two languages, Welsh and English. It demonstrates that the eighteenth-century Scottish clergy used the popular medium of Gaelic in oral and written form to advance the Gospel. The experience of literacy in early modern Wales was often an expression of legal and religious authority reinforced by the spoken word. This included the hearing of proclamations and other black-letter texts publicly read. Literate Protestant clergymen governed and shaped the Gaelic culture by acting as the bridge-builders between oral and literary traditions, and as arbiters of literary taste and the providers of reading material for newly literate people. The book also offers some illustrations of how anecdotes became social tools which used to make points not only in private correspondence but also in civil conversation in early modern England. Locating vagabonds and minstrels, and other wanderers on the margins of settled society depended on the survival of the appropriate historical record. Cautionary tales of the judgements God visited upon flagrant and incorrigible sinners circulated widely in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England: stories of sabbath-breakers, swearers, drunkards, adulterers and other ungodly livers struck down suddenly by the avenging arm of the Almighty. During the age of Enlightenment, intellectual culture nourished a new understanding of non-literate language and culture.

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reinforced the spoken tongue, by mandating the continued use of Welsh as an oral language of instruction linked to printed pedagogical texts written in that tongue. Suggett and White allude in their chapter to several topics dealt with in more detail in ensuing essays. Donald Meek, in Chapter 3, provides a study that pursues the influence of religion on another minority language, Gaelic at the respective frontiers between Highland and Lowland, and between orality and literacy. Meek demonstrates that the eighteenth-century Scottish clergy, not unlike their earlier and

in The spoken word

5 Beyond the witch trials Witchcraft and magic in Scotland Witchcraft and magic in eighteenth-century Scotland Peter Maxwell-Stuart On 20 October 1711 Defoe published in the periodical Review his well-known and unambiguous opinion on the subject of witches: There are, and ever have been such People in the World, who converse Familiarly with the Devil, enter into Compact with him, and receive Power from him, both to hurt and deceive, and these have been in all Ages call’d Witches, and it is these, that our Law and God’s Law Condemn’s as such; and I think there

in Beyond the witch trials
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Clergy, orality and print in the Scottish Gaelic world

6 Chapter 3 The spoken word The pulpit and the pen The pulpit and the pen: clergy, orality and print in the Scottish Gaelic world Donald E. Meek T he clergy have been of great importance to the creation, maintenance and growth of literacy within the Celtic cultures of Britain and Ireland. This observation applies across the centuries from the early Middle Ages to the period after 1870, when (in Britain) the Education Acts and the consequent nationalizing of educational systems laid the foundations of mass literacy. Even in the twentieth century clergymen

in The spoken word
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:47 Introduction to emigration within the Catholic Church, to which about another fifth to a quarter of eighteenth-century migrants nominally belonged, are more difficult to discern. If Miller’s assertion that the majority of these early Catholic migrants were ‘rootless’ holds true, however, then it seems unlikely that their removal caused their clergy a great deal of practical trouble or mental anguish.8 Outward migration in the nineteenth century was a different matter. By 1815, Ireland’s population had expanded to almost seven million, more than double what it had been only a

in Population, providence and empire
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The clergy and emigration in principle

1 Talk of population: the clergy and emigration in principle Migration from nineteenth-century Ireland, no less than migration from any other society, was driven primarily by an economic imperative. Whether attracted by the promise of a better life in Britain or the New World, or feeling compelled to leave by a lack of opportunity at home, most Irish emigrants determined their course based on a rational assessment of their own and their family’s best economic interests.1 Accordingly, as Professor David Fitzpatrick has eloquently observed, ‘for its opponents as

in Population, providence and empire
A case study in the construction of a myth

large sector of society. They possessed a powerful and credible ideology.’83 More recently, Walsh and Taylor have noted that ‘[i]f the fortunes of High Churchmanship ebbed and flowed, it seems always to have commanded the allegiance of sizeable sections of the clergy’. Indeed, ‘the theological (i.e. not ceremonial) tradition of High Anglicanism seems [to have been] strengthening rather than diminishing in the later decades’ of the century.84 The issue of a weak or demoralized or strong or confident eighteenth-century conservative Church goes to the very heart of

in The Enlightenment and religion
The pastoral responses of the Irish churches to emigration

cultivated – relatively late in the day in many instances – the infant churches of the New World looked to the Old World to supply them. This chapter will explore the elements of this call, the readiness of the home churches to heed it, and the effectiveness of their responses. Before 1815, spiritual efforts on behalf of Irish emigrants were uneven. Although eighteenth-century Presbyterian emigrants were sometimes accompanied by their pastors, the extent of this phenomenon, as Patrick Griffin has shown, can be exaggerated.4 There were certainly a few ‘cult heroes’ such as

in Population, providence and empire

religion.1 It was not, however, until the second half of the seventeenth century that the deism scare really began to take shape. In 1654 the orthodox Catholic and Bordelais barrister Jean Filleau claimed that the Catholic reformer Jansen, Saint Cyran and five others had met in Bourgfontaine in 1621 in order to plan the destruction of French Catholicism and supplant it with deism.2 In England, by the late seventeenth and the early eighteenth centuries, many Anglican prelates seemed increasingly convinced – if we are to believe their testimony – of the existence of a

in The Enlightenment and religion

possible contraction following the decline of the circulating schools. There is some evidence to confirm this from the visitation returns for the Diocese of St David’s in 1804, in which the parish clergy were required to indicate what proportion of the poor in their parishes were able to read.61 One indication of the growth of literacy was the notable increase in the number of books published in Welsh during the eighteenth century. Up until 1695, the business of printing books had been restricted to London, Oxford and Cambridge. The production of books in Welsh was a

in The spoken word