Civility and Incivility in Early Modern Britain, 1500-1700

Date / time: 28 June, 9:30 am - 6:30 pm

Civility and Incivility in Early Modern Britain, 1500-1700

Recent years have seen an increased scholarly interest in early modern ideas about civility. Although often associated with urbanity, gentility, or refinement, this conference will explore ideas of civility more broadly, asking how the limits of acceptable behaviour and discourse were defined, enforced, and negotiated in early modern Britain – be it in the religious, political, legal, social, intellectual, or cultural sphere.

The meaning of civility in post-Reformation Britain was both contested and complex. Religious change, developments in print and law, and social and political upheaval all served at various points to intensify ideological division and public disagreement. But contemporaries also worried about the effects of heated, vitriolic debate, and about how to ensure that difference did not tear apart the vinculum societatis (“bond of society”). Notions of civility could be both a source of, and a solution to, these conflicts – a form of tolerance or a tool of exclusion. They could place people, groups, and ideas beyond the bounds of acceptability, but also provide a principle for counteracting fissure in society and ensuring peaceful co-existence.

Conference Programme:

  • 09.15 – 09.30 Registration and coffee
  • 09.30 – 09.45 Welcome
  • 09.45 – 11.15 Panel 1: Rules
  • 11.15 – 11.30 Refreshment break
  • 11.30 – 12.20 Keynote address, Dr Teresa Bejan (Oxford University)
  • 12.20 – 13.15 Lunch
  • 13.15 – 14.45 Panel 2: Virtue Signals
  • 14.45 – 15.15 Comfort break
  • 15.15 – 16.45 Panel 3: Uncivil Conflict
  • 16.45 – 17.35 Keynote address, Prof Phil Withington (University of Sheffield)
  • 17.35 – 18.00 Wine reception on the lawn

For further details regarding the conference programme, please visit:

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This conference is generously supported by the Oriel College History Fund and the Oxford Centre for Early Modern Studies.

Location: Oriel College Oxford