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Reforming food and eating in Protestant England, c. 1560-c. 1640

Barnett, Eleanor 2019. Reforming food and eating in Protestant England, c. 1560-c. 1640. Historical Journal 63 (3) , pp. 507-527. 10.1017/S0018246X19000426

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As the field of food history has come to fruition in the last few decades, cultural historians of early modern England have begun to recognize the significance of food and eating practices in the process of identity construction. Yet its effect on religious identities has yet to be written. This article illuminates a printed discourse in which Protestants laboured to define a new relationship to food and eating in light of the Reformation, from Elizabeth I's reign up until the Civil War. It is based on a wealth of religious tracts written by the clergy, alongside the work of physicians in the form of dietaries and regimens, which together highlight the close relationship between bodily and spiritual concerns. As a result of the theological changes of the Reformation, reformers sought to desacralize Catholic notions of holy food. However, by paying greater attention to the body, this article argues that eating continued to be a religiously significant act, which could both threaten spiritual health and enrich it. This discourse on food and eating helped draw the confessional boundaries and identities of the Reformation period, and so offers a rewarding and novel insight into English Protestantism

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0018-246X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 23 February 2022
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 11:06

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