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20 obres 576 Membres 5 Ressenyes 2 preferits

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David Cressy is George III Professor of British History and Humanities Distinguished Professor of History at The Ohio State University.
Crèdit de la imatge: From David Cressy's page at Ohio State University.

Obres de David Cressy

Bonfires and Bells (1989) 39 exemplars
Gypsies : an English history (2018) 11 exemplars, 1 ressenya


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There can be few historical topics that pose more problems than the story of the Gypsies. How do you write a history of people who have tried so assiduously – not without good reason – to avoid the gaze of the state, who have left hardly any written sources of their own and who have been the subject of centuries of fear, prejudice and misunderstanding? It is not even especially easy to say who England’s Gypsies are or were: are they a group with a shared ethnicity, or a literary and social construct? Is the term ‘Gypsy’ a racist one?

This is an elusive, difficult and frustrating topic – a puzzle with many missing pieces. Alas, this book can tell us little about faith, gives only a fleeting glance at demography and tells us much less than we would like about Gypsy culture. Instead, the focus is on Gypsy relations with the wider community: relations founded in the prejudice and fear of that wider world. ‘Perceived as people without roots and without honesty’, Cressy reminds us that the Gypsies were seen as ‘a danger to society, an affront to the state, and offensive to God’. Indeed, between 1563 and 1783 the very fact of being a Gypsy was a hanging offence. The statute was, said a 19th-century commentator, ‘the most barbarous … that ever disgraced our criminal code’. They had a point: although the last hangings were as far back as 1628, this will have been of little comfort to the victims. Indeed, prejudice survived well beyond the anti-Gypsy laws. One correspondent to a local newspaper in the 20th century spoke for many when they dubbed Gypsies ‘shiftless, worthless people … Their morals are not bounded by ordinary rules, and nearly all of them are thieves’.

Cressy is especially good on the early modern period and at puncturing some of the bad history that has attached itself to the subject. He shows an early modernist’s scepticism for the letter of the law: the statutory prohibitions were brutal, but they were hardly ever used. The fanciful ideas – held by some scholars – that Gypsies were some kind of literary construct, or emerged as a response to the alleged transition from feudalism to capitalism, are rejected. Cressy accepts, surely correctly, the evidence that sees the Roma as a group with a history that goes back to ancient India. That said, through the centuries, they came to be bolstered by recruits from the settled population: the poor, the restless, the unsettled, perhaps even those simply wishing to escape the prying Leviathan.

Read the rest of the review at

Jonathan Healey is Associate Professor in Social History at Kellogg College at the University of Oxford.
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HistoryToday | Aug 31, 2023 |
My basic problem with this book is that it is not so much history or even an examination of "Birth, Marriage and Death" in Tudor and Stuart England, but rather a long series of quotes from sources. Cressy doesn't seem to have any real agenda or point--he's not trying to prove anything. Instead, he just throws everything on the page for the reader to drawn their own conclusions. That could be good, but...his writing reads like this:
"With shifting emphasis and scope for additions, the issues raised by Latimer and Bonner would resound for more than a century: the efficacy of the service, on both spiritual and social levels; its role as a marker between clean and unclean states, as a sign of altered condition, and of renewed sexual contact between husbands and wives; whether the ceremony was a matter of law or custom, and the degree to which ecclesiastical authorities were concerned with its regulation; whether it could be performed in private or needed public display in the congregation; and how much of the responsibility for its conduct and interpretation came from the established church, 'sinister counsel', or from women themselves."
Note: that sentence was not the beginning or end of a chapter, part of the introduction, part of the conclusion--it was smack dab in the middle of the hundreds of pages about "churching". Cressy is like grad student who has done a lot of research but doesn't have anything to say. He just hopes if he writes 600 pages, people will assume he's added something to the discourse.
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wealhtheowwylfing | Hi ha 1 ressenya més | Feb 29, 2016 |
This was a very well written social history about how the manifestations of abnormal behavior and suspicion showed the anxiety and instability within the time period. The book examines locally published pamphlets, court histories and church registries to explore how outlying events say something about what the common people were doing and thinking, especially as this is a period without a huge amount of written records.

This is a period of huge religious and political unrest. There were questions about the continuation of the monarch with the Tudor line coming to end, there were issues with having female monarchs for the first time, there were struggles against changing social mores with the loss of the strict Catholic church while the Anglican/Puritan infrastructure was still developing and then of course you have the chaos of the English Civil War. While it is easy to dismiss these cases as tabloid speculation, I think the author does a good point of showing how a trail of cases like these can be connected to the instability. He never uses just one case, there is always a string.

immigration and as those fears develop there is a rise in the number of these
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caittilynn | Hi ha 1 ressenya més | Sep 15, 2013 |
This is a book I bought from Oxford University Press online shop sale without knowing very much about it. I took about four months to finish this book, reading it a chapter at a time in between other books, so by the time I reached the conclusions I had all but forgotten the early chapters. Cressy examines stories of unusual pregnancies, midwives, small religious communities and the like.
mari_reads | Hi ha 1 ressenya més | Aug 11, 2008 |



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