Social historians have long suspected that religious convictions made a difference in the sixteenth century, and historians of the late Tudor religious and political settlements have recently emphasized the differences that advanced forms of Calvinism are alleged to have made. They say that religious radicals--puritans and precisianists, to their contemporary critics--were social conservatives who thought wealth was a blessing and poverty a curse. According to Keith Wrightson and David Levine, the "firmly committed Puritans among the yeomen of the parish" promoted a "sense of social distance" between themselves ("the better sort") and the less respectable. The 1995 republication of Wrightson's and Levine's study of social discontinuity, Poverty and Piety in an English Village, seemed a splendid occasion to revisit the intersection of religious conviction and social practice and to ponder the precision with which puritanism' s supposed contributions to social stratification-and the stratification itself-have been, and can be, measured.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1998

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 1998 North American Conference on British Studies. This article first appeared in Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies 30, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 29-48. doi:10.2307/4052382.

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