Tudor Antiquaries

Joseph M. Levine introduces the modern historians' forerunners; the men who invented the techniques and defined the problems of studying the past.

To be labelled an antiquary would hardly compliment the modern historian. It suggests an essentially useless labour—research confined to the most obscure corners of the past, deservedly forgotten and without point or relevance. The historian’s calling is somehow loftier. But it was not always so. Once anti-quarianism was fresh and exciting; it offered a new way of recovering and unravelling the past.

Nor was it thought impractical. Some of the most vigorous men of a vigorous age—the Elizabethans—were proud to wear the title. Indeed, the first learned society in England was their creation and their activities touched so closely upon Church and state, Parliament and Crown, that King James I thought best to dissolve them. In turn, they took their revenge by helping to undo his son.

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