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David Cressy lecture: "Trouble with Gypsies: Representation, Law, and Identity in Early Modern England"



"Trouble with Gypsies" explores the social, cultural, legal and political response to Gypsies in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, and exposes the historical vectors of marginality, authority, and transgression.  It engages three levels of problem: first, historiography and scholarship, as literary, historical, folkloric, and activist scholars have grappled with sources plagued by inadequacies of evidence; second, the problem faced by early modern councilors, magistrates and parliamentarians as they sought to devise strategies for handling Gypsies and the so-called ‘counterfeit Egyptians’ who traveled with them; and third, the problem of Gypsies themselves, who struggled to thrive in a shifting environment of suspicion, hostility and persecution. Grounded on the interdisciplinary literature on Gypsies in history, with passing reference to 'coney-catching' literature, this lecture introduces evidence from under-explored archives, including depositions, indictments and commentary from Star Chamber and other courts. The evidence reveals splits and developments within early modern officialdom that shed indirect light on the itineraries, activities and survival strategies of early modern Gypsies. Questions for consideration include the robustness, porosity, and mutability of Gypsy identity; the labeling of Gypsies as idle, counterfeit, dissembling rogues; and the problem of retrieving a Gypsy history from non-Gypsy sources.


David Cressy is the Humanities Distinguished Professor of History and George III Professor of British History at The Ohio State University. As a social historian of early modern England, Cressy focuses on questions concerning society, culture, religion and politics of England under the Tudors and Stuarts, from the late fifteenth to the early eighteenth century.

Start Time: 2/7/2013  4:10 PM
Location: 3222 Angell Hall
Contact: gregerso@umich.edu
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