Deviance and Disorder in the Early Modern City

Module code: HS2347

Module co-ordinator: Dr Andrew Hopper

Module Outline

This module explores the fascinating and turbulent history of England’s second largest urban centre during the early modern period: the city of Norwich. Dominated by the cloth trade, by 1600 over a quarter of Norwich’s inhabitants were immigrants from northern Europe. This focus allows the module to explore issues of multi-culturalism, as well as the political identities of early modern English cities as a context for reconnecting national and local histories. The module also uses the experience of Norwich to investigate the key wider debates of early modern history such as the problem of order, the extent of popular participation in state formation, and the relationship between the governors and governed. There is particular focus on the disorderly nature of the citizens and their role in popular politics, riot, violence and rebellion.

Topics covered

Topics explored include the impact of the Reformation, Kett’s Rebellion and the ‘commotions’ of 1549, the emergence of immigrant ‘Stranger’ communities of French, Walloon and Dutch settlers within the walls, the English Civil Wars and Revolution, the problem of government during terrifying plague epidemics that swept away over a quarter of the population, and the development of oppositional politics in English cities from the 1770s to 1790s, spanning the period of the American and French Revolutions. The experience of authority will be examined, along with print and alehouse culture, ‘the rage of party’, clubs, societies, riotous election contests and the contrasting topographies of religious and political culture in differing parts of the city.


Learning takes place through 10 one-hour lectures and 10 two-hour seminars. There are enormous digital resources and online primary sources for this module. The seminars will be spent in small group discussion analysing these primary sources and how historians have utilized them. This affords students excellent preparation for their special subject and dissertations that they will pursue in their final year. The module concludes with a day trip to Norwich, on a Leicester Student Union minibus, when we will explore the topographies of the city and important sites connected with the commotions of 1549, the civil wars and the city’s world famous eighteenth-century dissenter meeting houses. In the past students have found this most fulfilling, one writing in their feedback: ‘It meant that everything I’d read about the city came alive… and it really helped during the examinations.’


This module is assessed 100% by coursework, two essays each 2,500 words in length.


Carole Rawcliffe and Richard Wilson (eds), Norwich since 1550 (London, 2004).

Ian Atherton, Christopher Harper-Bill, Victor Morgan and Hassel Smith (eds), Norwich Cathedral: Church, City and Diocese (London, 1996).

John T. Evans, Seventeenth-Century Norwich: Politics, Religion and Government, 1620–1690 (Oxford, 1979).

Peter Clark and Paul Slack (eds), Crisis and Order in English Towns, 1500–1700 (London, 1972).

Peter Clark (ed.), The Early Modern Town: A Reader (London, 1976).

Muriel C. McClendon, The Quiet Reformation: Magistrates and the Emergence of Protestantism in Tudor Norwich (Stanford, 1999).

John Miller, Cities Divided: Politics and Religion in English Provincial Towns, 1660–1722 (Oxford, 2007).

John Pound, Tudor and Stuart Norwich (Chichester, 1988).

Mathew Reynolds, Godly Reformers and their Opponents in Early Modern England: Religion in Norwich, c.1560-1643 (Woodbridge, 2005).

Nicholas Rogers, Whigs and Cities: Popular Politics in the Age of Walpole and Pitt (Oxford, 1989).

Kathleen Wilson, The Sense of the People: Politics, Culture and Imperialism in England, 1715–1785 (Cambridge, 1995).

Andy Wood, The 1549 Rebellions and the Making of Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2007).