The Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfilment in Early Modern England

Eamon Duffy writes:

Keith Thomas prefaces this book with a quotation from the greatest of English medievalists, F.W. Maitland: ‘A century hence . . . by slow degrees the thoughts of our forefathers, their common thoughts about common things, will become thinkable once more.’ That aspiration, to recover ‘common thoughts about common things’, was a novelty in Victorian historiography. In the century since Maitland’s death, however, it has become for many historians the holy grail. The archives have always had a great deal to tell us about the doings of kings and kaisers. The common thoughts of common people about common things have proved far more elusive.

(LRB 23 July 2009)

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