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On a winter night in 1743, a local magistrate was stabbed to death in the churchyard of Rye by an angry butcher. Why did this grueome crime happen? What does it reveal about the political, economic, and cultural patterns that existed in this small English port town? To answer these questions, this book takes us back to the mid-16th century, when religious and social tensions began to fragment the quiet town of Rye and led to witch hunts, riots and violent political confrontations. Paul Monod examines events over the course of the next two centuries, tracing the town's transition as it moved from narrowly focussed Reformation norms to the more expansive ideas of the emerging commercial society. In the process, relations among the town's inhabitants were fundamentally altered. The history of Rye mirrored that of the whole nation and it gives us an intriguing perspective on England in the early modern period.
Paul Kleber Monod is professor of history at Middlebury College and author of The Power of Kings: Monarchy and Religion in Europe, 1589-1715 (ISBN 0 300 09066 8, pb. [pound]14.50), published by Yale university Press.