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Devils Everywhere

David Wootton: The Terrors of the Night, 9 March 2006

At Day’s Close: A History of Nighttime 
by Roger Ekirch.
Weidenfeld, 447 pp., £20, June 2005, 0 297 82992 0
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Saving the Daylight: Why We Put the Clocks Forward 
by David Prerau.
Granta, 256 pp., £14.99, October 2005, 1 86207 796 7
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... looked a goat in the eye, are minor in a book that can’t be summarised but must be experienced. David Prerau’s Saving the Daylight begins where Ekirch ends. Through the 19th century, more and more city streets were lit by gas lamps; in the early 20th century mains electricity spread rapidly. Artificial light made it possible to live and work by clock ...

Lacanian Jesuit

David Wootton: Michel de Certeau, 4 October 2001

The Possession at Loudun 
by Michel de Certeau, translated by Michael Smith.
Chicago, 251 pp., £27, August 2000, 0 226 10034 0
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The Certeau Reader 
edited by Graham Ward.
Blackwell, 320 pp., £60, November 1999, 0 631 21278 7
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Michel de Certeau: Cultural Theorist 
by Ian Buchanan.
Sage, 143 pp., £50, July 2000, 0 7619 5897 5
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... In 1632 Loudun was a frontier town, with Catholicism to the north, south and east, and Protestantism to the west. Internally divided, it was in the process of being recaptured by the new religious orders of the Counter-Reformation (the Jesuits arrived in 1606, the Capuchins in 1616, the Ursulines in 1626); while at the same time Richelieu was planning to destroy the town’s castle, thus turning its citizens into subjects of the absolutist state ...

Never Knowingly Naked

David Wootton: 17th-century bodies, 15 April 2004

Common Bodies: Women, Touch and Power in 17th-Century England 
by Laura Gowing.
Yale, 260 pp., £25, September 2003, 0 300 10096 5
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... Thanks to Michel Foucault and Discipline and Punish, history students now graduate knowing more about the history of the body than about the English Civil War or the Industrial Revolution. At the same time, everyone has their own idea about what body history should be about. It was Foucault’s view that power always expresses itself by way of the body: his history was (at least in its inception) a corporal politics, intended to reconfigure our understanding of power ...

Skipwith and Anktill

David Wootton: Tudor Microhistory, 10 August 2000

Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 351 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 19 820781 6
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A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the Second Earl of Castlehaven 
by Cynthia Herrup.
Oxford, 216 pp., £18.99, December 1999, 0 19 512518 5
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... Both David Cressy and Cynthia Herrup believe they are writing microhistory, a word coined by Italians, but used to describe above all the work of Natalie Zemon Davis (The Return of Martin Guerre, 1983) and Robert Darnton (The Great Cat Massacre, 1984). Microhistorians have turned to the verbatim records of interrogations kept in the law courts of early modern Europe (or at least those parts of Europe where Roman law procedures were followed) to reconstruct the detailed stories of individual trials ...

The road is still open

David Wootton: Turpin Hero?, 3 February 2005

Dick Turpin: The Myth of the English Highwayman 
by James Sharpe.
Profile, 258 pp., £8.99, January 2005, 1 86197 418 3
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... of History’, retreats to the old cliché that the business of the historian is to deal in facts. David Starkey complains that the history syllabus in schools places far too little emphasis on facts, and far too much on critical thinking. Sharpe wants the best of both worlds, facts and critical thinking hand in hand. But a history that could answer the ...

Separating Gracie and Rosie

David Wootton: Two people, one body, 22 July 2004

One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal 
by Alice Domurat Dreger.
Harvard, 198 pp., £14.95, May 2004, 0 674 01294 1
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... life. None of the judges seems to have been able fully to grasp the force of an argument made by David Harris QC on behalf of Rosie: ‘John Locke’s assertion that "every man has a property in his own person. This no body has any right to but himself” . . . is difficult to apply in the case of conjoined twins.’ I have looked again at the photograph on ...

Disarming the English

David Wootton, 21 July 1994

To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right 
by Joyce Lee Malcolm.
Harvard, 232 pp., £23.95, March 1994, 0 674 89306 9
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... The Thirty-Nine Articles required all Englishmen to practise archery on Sundays. For the Elizabethans bearing arms was a duty, not a right. Few of them were allowed to shoot at anything but targets: all game in the kingdom belonged to the Queen and could only be hunted under licence. Bows and arrows, guns and pistols must normally have been kept at home, but every man carried a knife with which to cut his food, and every gentleman a sword ...

Close Cozenage

David Wootton, 23 May 1996

Astrology and the 17th-Century Mind: William Lilly and the Language of the Stars 
by Ann Geneva.
Manchester, 298 pp., £40, June 1995, 0 7190 4154 6
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... William Lilly was the first to produce a major textbook of astrology in the English language, at a time when the truth of astrology was almost universally recognised. At their peak in the 1650s his almanacs sold up to 30,000 copies a year. From them he may only have netted a modest £70 a year (enough for a gentleman to live on), but they served to advertise his astrological practice, from which we have the surviving records of many thousands of consultations ...

Brutish Babies

David Wootton: Witchcraft, 11 November 1999

Shaman of Oberstdorf: Chonrad Stoeckhlin and the Phantoms of the Night 
by Wolfgang Behringer, translated by H.C.Erik Midelfort.
Virginia, 203 pp., £14.50, September 1998, 0 8139 1853 7
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Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe 
by Stuart Clark.
Oxford, 845 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 820001 3
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Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Routledge, 368 pp., £55, April 1999, 0 415 19611 6
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The Bewitching of Anne Gunter: A Horrible and True Story of Football, Witchcraft, Murder and the King of England 
by James Sharpe.
Profile, 256 pp., £16.99, November 1999, 9781861970480
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... There are people who believe themselves to be witches. One can find them without difficulty on the Internet, and on a recent canal trip I was surprised to pass a whole series of narrow-boats (Black Cat, Sorceress) apparently inhabited by practising witches. The modern scholarly literature on the history of witch beliefs and witch trials, however, first took shape in opposition to Margaret Murray’s The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921), which claimed that Renaissance witches were worshippers of pagan gods ...
The Correspondence of Thomas Hobbes: Vols I-II 
edited by Thomas Hobbes and Noel Malcolm.
Oxford, 592 pp., £60, September 1994, 0 19 824065 1
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... Although Thomas Hobbes lived to be 91, and was one of the most famous philosophers of his day, there are only 211 surviving letters to or from him. This compares with 3656 to or from Locke, some twenty thousand to or from Leibniz. For the last three decades of his life Hobbes suffered from Parkinson’s disease, but he always had the assistance of a secretary, and he seems to have replied to letters whenever he received them ...

Possessed by the Idols

Steven Shapin: Does Medicine Work?, 30 November 2006

Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates 
by David Wootton.
Oxford, 304 pp., £16.99, June 2006, 0 19 280355 7
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... writing his only history of science. It is still more surprising that it should come from David Wootton, an early modern intellectual historian whose 1983 study of Paolo Sarpi, a late Renaissance theologian, concluded by cautioning historians not to act as a ‘jury’. There are two stories folded into ...

The Strangest Piece of News

Nick Wilding: Galileo, 2 June 2011

Galileo: Watcher of the Skies 
by David Wootton.
Yale, 328 pp., £25, October 2010, 978 0 300 12536 8
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by J.L. Heilbron.
Oxford, 508 pp., £20, October 2010, 978 0 19 958352 2
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... for calculating planetary positions, the latter for describing the physical universe.) Thanks to David Wootton’s careful reconstruction of the writing and printing of the Sidereus (in an article in Issue 6 of Galilaeana: Journal of Galilean Studies), we now know that Galileo’s swaggering pro-Copernicanism, the least plausible of the rival models to ...

Such Matters as the Soul

Dmitri Levitin: ‘The Invention of Science’, 22 September 2016

The Invention of Science: a New History of the Scientific Revolution 
by David Wootton.
Penguin, 784 pp., £12.99, September 2016, 978 0 14 104083 7
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... On 11 February​ , David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo) in the US, announced that his team of almost a thousand scientists had detected evidence of gravitational waves emanating from a pair of black holes 1.3 billion light years from Earth. It was empirical confirmation of Einstein’s theory of general relativity ...

What do we mean by it?

J.G.A. Pocock, 7 January 1993

The Cambridge History of Political Thought: 1450-1700 
edited by J.H. Burns and Mark Goldie.
Cambridge, 798 pp., £60, August 1991, 0 521 24716 0
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... Section Three are exclusively English in their focus: Corinne Weston on the ancient constitution, David Wootton on the Levellers, Blair Worden on the English republicans. This may be justified by referring to the section’s title, and claiming that England was the only major society in 17th-century ‘Europe’ in which what is ordinarily called a ...

Playboy’s Paperwork

Patrick Collinson: Historiography and Elizabethan politics, 11 November 1999

The World of the Favourite 
edited by J.H. Elliott and L.W.B. Brockliss.
Yale, 320 pp., £35, June 1999, 0 300 07644 4
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The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585-97 
by Paul Hammer.
Cambridge, 468 pp., £45, June 1999, 0 521 43485 8
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... not necessarily involving intimacy, was essential. In perhaps the most interesting contribution, David Wootton uses Bacon’s essays to suggest both that friendship is a key to our understanding, the favourite being ‘a special sort of friend’, and one that we are slow to turn in the lock, given ‘the insignificance of friendship in our own ...

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