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REFORMING FOOD AND EATING IN PROTESTANT ENGLAND, c. 1560–c. 1640

  • ELEANOR BARNETT (a1)

Abstract

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.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Christ's College, Cambridge, CB2 3BUerb54@cam.ac.uk

Footnotes

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I would like to thank my Ph.D. supervisors, Professor Craig Muldrew and Professor Ulinka Rublack, for their continual encouragement and their comments on earlier versions of this article. Thanks are also due to Dr Kate Peters, who jointly supervised my M.Phil. research at the University of Cambridge, from which this article originally stems. My thanks to the anonymous reviewers at the Historical Journal for their constructive feedback. I gratefully acknowledge the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Levy-Plumb Fund at Christ's College through the award of a doctoral scholarship.

Footnotes

References

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1 All pre-1800 works were published in London unless otherwise stated. In this period, ‘meat’ referred to ‘food’, rather than to the flesh meat of animals alone. Edward Bush, A sermon preached at Pauls Crosse on Trinity Sunday, 1571 (1576), sig. G1r. This sermon is sometimes attributed to Edmund Bunny. See MacLure, Millar, Register of sermons preached at Paul's Cross 1534–1642, revised and augmented by Boswell, Jackson Campbell and Pauls, Peter (Toronto, ON, 1989), p. 52.

2 Romans 14:23: ‘And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.’ All biblical references are taken from the King James Version (KJV).

3 Bush, Sermon preached at Pauls Crosse, sig. F4v.

4 Thirsk, Joan, Food in early modern England: phrases, fads, fashions 1500–1760 (London, 2007; orig. edn 2006). The most prominent example of the previous approach is Drummond, J. C. and Wilbraham, Anne, The Englishman's food: a history of five centuries of English diet (London, 1939). There have also been some novel developments in the dietary nutritional literature, particularly Craig Muldrew's work on the nutrition of agricultural labourers. Muldrew, Craig, Food, energy and the creation of industriousness: work and material culture in agrarian England, 1550–1789 (Cambridge, 2011).

5 Lloyd, Paul S., Food and identity in England, 1540–1640: eating to impress (London, 2015). For influential anthropological approaches to food and identity, see Douglas, Mary, ‘Deciphering a meal’, Daedalus, 101 (1972), pp. 6181; Feeley-Harnik, G., ‘Religion and food: an anthropological perspective’, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 63 (1995), pp. 565–82; Mintz, Sidney W. and Du Bois, Christine M., ‘The anthropology of food and eating’, Annual Review of Anthropology, 31 (2002), pp. 99119.

6 Albala, Ken, Food in early modern Europe (Westport, CT, 2003), pp. 193207; Gentilcore, David, Food and health in early modern Europe: diet, medicine and society, 1450–1800 (London, 2016), pp. 95105.

7 Kissane, Christopher, Food, religion, and communities in early modern Europe (London, 2018). See also Williams, Jillian, Food and religious identities in Spain, 1400–1600 (Abingdon, 2017).

8 Kissane was influenced by McGuire, Meredith B., Lived religion: faith and practice in everyday life (Oxford, 2008), pp. 1213. In the specific context of English Protestantism, see Ryrie, Alec, Being Protestant in Reformation Britain (Oxford, 2013), p. 2. This trend is also apparent in studies of the Catholic Reformation. See Pollmann, Judith, ‘Being a Catholic in early modern Europe’, in Bamji, Alexandra, Janssen, Geert H., and Laven, Mary, eds., The Ashgate research companion to the Counter-Reformation (Farnham, 2013), pp. 165182, at p. 165.

9 Earle, Rebecca, ‘“If you eat their food…”: diets and bodies in early colonial Spanish America’, American Historical Review, 115 (2010), pp. 688713, at p. 690. See also Earle, Rebecca, The body of the conquistador: food, race and the colonial experience in Spanish America, 1492–1700 (Cambridge, 2012).

10 Catholic conceptions of food are discussed in greater detail in my Ph.D. thesis, but are beyond the scope of the present article. Eleanor Barnett, ‘Food and religion in the English and Italian Reformations, c. 1560–c. 1640’ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge, forthcoming).

11 These ideas also influenced Muslim medicine, and the writings of the physicians Rhazes, or al-Rāzī (854–925), and Avicenna, or Ibn Sina (980–1037), are in turn frequently referenced in early modern English dietary tracts as a source of medicinal knowledge. See Earle, The body of the conquistador, p. 31.

12 Sandra Cavallo and Tessa Storey compared English regimens to those of Italy. Cavallo, Sandra and Storey, Tessa, ‘Regimens, authors and readers: Italy and England compared’, in Cavallo, Sandra and Storey, Tessa, eds., Conserving health in early modern culture: bodies and environments in Italy and England (Manchester, 2017), pp. 2352, esp. pp. 31–2.

13 For leading accounts in this field, see Albala, Ken, Eating right in the Renaissance (Berkeley, CA, 2002); Gentilcore, Food and health in early modern Europe; Cavallo, Sandra and Storey, Tessa, Healthy living in late Renaissance Italy (Oxford, 2013).

14 Recent work on the Reformations has emphasized the importance of the body in religious experience, and has accordingly given physiological theories more attention. See, in particular, Milner, Matthew, The senses and the English Reformation (Farnham, 2011); Roodenburg, Herman, ‘The body in the Reformations’, in Rublack, Ulinka, ed., The Oxford handbook of the Protestant Reformations (Oxford, 2016), pp. 643–66; Roper, Lyndal, ‘Martin Luther's body: the “stout doctor” and his biographers’, American Historical Review, 115 (2010), pp. 351–84. For similar trends in the Catholic Counter-Reformation literature, see Wietse de Boer, ‘The Counter-Reformation of the senses’, in Bamji, Janssen, and Laven, Ashgate research companion to the Counter-Reformation, pp. 243–60.

15 Albala, Eating right in the Renaissance, p. 46.

16 Broadly speaking, this article concurs with Nicholas Tyacke's conception of a Calvinist consensus within the established Church of England until the Laudianism of the reign of Charles I. See Tyacke, Nicholas, Anti-Calvinists: the rise of English Arminianism, 1590–1640 (Oxford, 1987); Ryrie, Being Protestant in Reformation Britain, p. 7.

17 Grace is essentially divine favour or power which can regenerate or sanctify the material or person. Sacramentals could also be actions, such as crossing oneself. Similarly, the recipient of the blessed substance was not always a person. Holy water was used in the blessing of the altar, for instance, imbuing the latter with holy power. For a detailed discussion of pre-Reformation practices, see Bynum, Caroline Walker, Christian materiality: an essay in late medieval Christianity (New York, 2011), esp. pp. 125–76.

18 Warren, Frederick E., trans., The Sarum missal in English (2 vols., London, 1913), i, pp. 1317.

19 Collins, A. Jefferies, ed., Manuale ad usum percelebris ecclesie Sarisburiensis: from the edition printed at Rouen in 1543, compared with those of 1506 (London), 1516 (Rouen), 1523 (Antwerp), 1526 (Paris) (London, 1960), pp. 65, 81. Other blessings took place unofficially within parish churches, dependent upon local tradition. R. W. Scribner, for instance, demonstrated that herbs or candles were given unauthorized blessings under altar cloth in Catholic Germany. Scribner, R. W., ‘Ritual and popular religion in Catholic Germany at the time of the Reformation’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 35 (1984), pp. 4777, at p. 73. Following the Council of Trent, the Tridentine rite confirmed the use of several comestibles as sacramentals, including lamb and eggs. See Sodi, Manlio and Arcas, Juan Javier Flores, eds., Rituale Romanum: editio princeps (1614) (Vatican City, 2004), pp. 154–60.

20 Bynum, Christian materiality, p. 160.

21 Ibid., p. 34.

22 Becon, Thomas, The reliques of Rome contayning all such matters of religion, as haue in times past bene brought into the church by the Pope and his adherentes (1563), pp. 160–3.

23 Sparke, Thomas, A sermon preached at Cheanies the 14. of September, 1585, at the buriall of the right honorable the earle of Bedforde (2nd edn, Oxford, 1594), p. 35.

24 Robert Abbot, The second part of the defence of the reformed Catholicke (1607), p. 1120, emphasis in original. Abbot was responding to the criticism of William Bishop and other Catholics against the work of the late Calvinist proponent William Perkins.

25 Marshall, Peter, Heretics and believers: a history of the English Reformation (New Haven, CT, 2017), p. 497.

26 Milner, The senses and the English Reformation, p. 227.

27 Specific tracts on fasting began with Thomas Becon, A fruitful treatise of fasting wherin is declared what ye Christen fast is, how we ought to fast, what ye true vse of fastyng is (1551). See also, Anon., A very godly and learned treatise of the exercise of fastyng (1580); Henry Holland, The Christian exercise of fasting (1596); Nicholas Bownd, The holy exercise of fasting. Described clarley and plainly out of the word of God (1604).

28 Edward Jeninges, A briefe discouery of the damages that happen to this realme by disordered and vnlawfull diet (1590), p. 27.

29 For example, Lippomano, Luigi (archbishop of Verona), Confirmatione et stabilimento di tutti li dogmi catholici (Venice, 1553), p. 117r. Catholic responses to Protestant criticisms of fasting will be addressed in Barnett, ‘Food and religion in the English and Italian Reformations’.

30 Ann Henisch, Bridget, Fast and feast: food in medieval society (University Park, PA, 1976), p. 33.

31 For example, Dillingham, Francis, A quartron of reasons, composed by Doctor Hill, vnquartered, and prooued a quartron of follies (Cambridge, 1603), p. 49; Holland, Christian exercise of fasting, p. 62.

32 Grumett, David and Muers, Rachel, Theology on the menu: asceticism, meat and Christian diet (London, 2010), p. 9.

33 William Alley, Ptochomuseion = the poore mans librarie rapsodiae G.A. Bishop of Exceter vpon the first epistle of saint Peter (1565), p. 185r; Samuel Gardiner, The cognizance of a true Christian … two duties: fasting and giuing of almes (1598), p. 20; 1 Timothy 4:3–4.

34 Mark 7:14; Gardiner, Cognizance of a true Christian, p. 20.

35 See Freidenreich, David M., Foreigners and their food: constructing otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic law (Berkeley, CA, 2011), p. 89.

36 On Zwingli, see Kissane, Food, religion, and communities, pp. 53–75. On Luther and Calvin, see Gentilcore, Food and health in early modern Europe, pp. 100–1.

37 Alley, Ptochomuseion, p. 185r.

38 Becon, Fruitful treatise of fasting, sig. D4r. See also Holland, Christian exercise of fasting, p. 19. Fast-breaking was commonplace in Lollard heresy trials: see Grumett and Muers, Theology on the menu, p. 58.

39 Alley, Ptochomuseion, p. 186r.

40 Thomas Muffett, Healths improvement: or, rules comprizing and discovering the nature, method, and manner of preparing all sorts of food used in this nation, corrected and enlarged by Christopher Bennet (1655), pp. 52–7; James Hart, Klinike, or the diet of the diseased (1633), pp. 158–62.

41 Muffett, Healths improvement, p. 55.

42 For a discussion of the meaning of fasting during the Long Parliament, see Trevor-Roper, Hugh, ‘The fast sermons of the Long Parliament’, in Religion, the Reformation and social change, and other essays (London, 1967), pp. 294344.

43 1562 (5 Eliz. i, c. 5). The continued enforcement of fish days has been the subject of several recent articles since G. R. Elton's study, first published in 1986, in which he argued that this policy should be understood in the light of a conflict between the private economic interests of Yorkshire sea-fishermen and the foreign fish trade of the London Fishmongers’ Company. Elton, G. R., ‘Piscatorial politics in the early parliaments of Elizabeth I’, in Studies in Tudor and Stuart politics and government (4 vols., Cambridge, 2002), iv, pp. 109–30. See also Sgroi, R. C. L., ‘Piscatorial political revisited: the language of economic debate and the evolution of fishing policy in Elizabethan England’, Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, 35 (2003), pp. 124; Kaufman, Peter Iver, ‘Fasting in England in the 1560s: “A thinge of nought”?’, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, 94 (2003), pp. 176–93; Ryrie, Alec, ‘The fall and rise of fasting in the British Reformations’, in Mears, Natalie and Ryrie, Alec, eds., Worship and the parish church in early modern Britain (Farnham, 2013), pp. 89108.

44 Jeninges, Briefe discouery, p. 9. Jeninges was also the author of a very similar second tract, now in the British Library, which is addressed to William Cecil. ‘Edward Jennyngs discourse to Lord Burghley, on the utility to the realm by observing days for eating fish only’, 1570, London, British Library, Lansdown MS 101/22.

45 Thomas Cogan, The hauen of health chiefly gathered for the comfort of students, and consequently of all those that have a care of their health (1584), p. 159.

46 Romans 14:20.

47 Jeninges, Briefe discouery, p. 13.

48 Alley, Ptochomuseion, p. 186r.

49 Becon, Fruitful treatise of fasting, p. 17.

50 Radford Mavericke, Saint Peters chaine, consisting of eight golden linckes, most fit to adorne the neckes of the greatest states, nobles, and ladies in this land (1596), p. 107.

51 Henry Mason, Christian humiliation, or, a treatise of fasting (1625), p. 118.

52 William Bullein, Bulleins bulwarke of defence against all sicknesse, soarenesse, and woundes that dooe daily assaulte mankinde (1562), p. 41r.

53 Ibid.

55 Anon., ‘An homilie against peril of idolatrie, and superfluous decking of churches’, in The second tome of homilies (1574), p. 86.

56 Milner, The senses and the English Reformation, p. 221.

57 Bullein, Bulleins bulwarke of defence, p. 41r.

58 Alley, Ptochomuseion, p. 185r.

59 Becon, Fruitful treatise of fasting, pp. 44–5. See also Gardiner, Cognizance of a true Christian, pp. 18–19.

60 John Caldwell, A sermon preached before the right honourable Earle of Darbie, and diuers other assembled in his honors chappell at Newparke in Lankashire (1577), sig. F3r. Similar assertions were based on Philippians 3:19: ‘Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.’

61 Mason, Christian humiliation, p. 163.

62 Roodenburg, ‘The body in the Reformations’, pp. 647–8.

63 Richard Day, A booke of Christian prayers, collected out of the ancie[n]t writers, and best learned in our tyme (1578), p. 111v.

64 Timothy Bright, Treatise on melancholie containing the causes thereof, & reasons of the strange effects it worketh in our minds and bodies (1586), p. 46.

65 Cogan, Hauen of health, p. 24.

66 Albala, Eating right in the Renaissance, p. 56.

67 Philip Stubbes, The anatomie of abuses contayning a discouerie, or briefe summarie of such notable vices and imperfections, as now raigne in many Christian countreyes of the worlde (1583), sigs. I2v–I3r.

68 John Stockwood, A sermon preached at Pauls Crosse on Barthelmew day, being the 24. of August 1578 (1578), pp. 132–3.

69 Anon., ‘An homilie of gluttony and drunkenness’, in The second tome of homilies, p. 205.

70 Winthrop, John, ‘Experiencia’, in Winthrop, Robert C., ed., Life and letters of John Winthrop (Boston, MA, 1864), p. 108.

71 Tessa Storey, ‘English and Italian health advice: Protestant and Catholic bodies’, in Cavallo and Storey, Conserving health, pp. 210–34, at p. 220.

72 Cogan, Hauen of health, ¶2v.

73 Hart, Klinike, p. 103.

74 Stubbes, Anatomie of abuses, sig. I4r.

75 Gentilcore, Food and health in early modern Europe, p. 101. Similarly, Ken Albala claims that puritanical thought repressed the development of ‘culinary refinement in Calvinist countries’. Albala, Food in early modern Europe, p. 202.

76 For an example of an elaboration of this theory, see Philip Moore, The hope of health wherin is conteined a goodlie regimente of life (1564), pp. xvii–xix.

77 John Ball, Treatise of faith divided into two parts. The first shewing the nature, the second, the life of faith (1631), p. 375.

78 See, for example, Hart, Klinike, p. 83; Moore, Hope of health, p. xxv.

79 Stubbes, Anatomie of abuses, sig. I6v.

80 Henry Bull, Christian praiers and holie meditation as wel for priuate as publique exercise (1596), p. 148. See also Ball, Treatise of faith, p. 374: ‘but the blessing is not in the creature, it comes from aboue’. We can compare this, for example, with Gregory Martin, an English Catholic priest, who in 1582 argued that blessing food at the table was not simply a thanksgiving, but that the food was rather ‘sanctified by the word and by praier’. Martin, Gregory, A discouerie of the manifold corruptions of the Holy Scriptures by the heretikes of our daies (Rheims, 1582), p. 252.

81 Richard Bernard, A weekes work, and a worke for every weeke (1616), p. 74.

82 Ibid., p. 75.

83 Ibid., pp. 79–80.

84 Holland, Christian exercise of fasting, p. 36.

85 Becon, Thomas, ‘A comparison between the Lord's Supper and the Pope's mass’, in Ayre, John, ed., Prayers and other pieces of Thomas Becon (Cambridge, 1864), p. 378.

86 Henry Buttes, Dyets dry dinner consisting of eight seuerall courses (1599), sig. B2r.

87 The language of expulsion also allowed a sexual pun, which was both humorous and re-emphasized the brevity of material pleasures.

88 Calvin, Jean, Institutes of the Christian religion, trans. Beveridge, Henry (1559 edn, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996), pp. 491–6.

89 Milner, The senses and the English Reformation, pp. 2–4, 17, 165.

90 Ibid., pp. 23, 39.

91 Bright, Treatise on melancholie, p. 41. Numerous religious texts also attest to the existence of the soul's senses. See, for example, Perkins, William, A reformed Catholike: or, a declaration shewing how neere we may come to the present Church of Rome in sundrie points of religion (Cambridge, 1598), p. 48.

92 Stephen Batman, Batman upon Bartholome, his booke De proprietatibus rerum (1583), p. 35. This text was widely used in the sixteenth century as an encyclopaedia: see Rivkah Zim, ‘Batman [Bateman], Stephan [Stephen] (c. 1542–1584)’, ODNB.

93 Perkins, William, A golden chaine: or, the description of theologie (Cambridge, 1600), p. 1001.

94 Ryrie, Being Protestant in Reformation Britain, p. 89.

95 Fulton, Rachel, ‘“Taste and see that the Lord is sweet” (Ps. 33:9): the flavor of God in the monastic West’, Journal of Religion, 86 (2006), pp. 169204; Hale, Rosemary D., ‘“Taste and see, for God is sweet”: sensory perception and memory in medieval Christian mystic experience’, in Bartlett, Anne Clark et al. , eds., Vox mystica: essays on medieval mysticism in honor of Professor Valerie M. Lagorio (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 314.

96 The term ‘hotter sort’ of Protestant was originally employed to refer to those of a puritan tendency in Collinson, Patrick, The Elizabethan puritan movement (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1967), p. 26.

97 Ball, Treatise of faith, p. 375.

98 Nash, Thomas, Nash's Lenten stuff: containing the description and first procreation and increase of the town of Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk, ed. Hindley, Charles (London, 1871), pp. 8891.

99 Bynum, Christian materiality, p. 35.

100 Walsham, Alexandra, The reformation of the landscape: religion, identity and memory in early modern Britain and Ireland (Oxford, 2011), p. 566.

101 Harding, Thomas, A confutation of a booke intituled an apologie of the Church of England (Antwerp, 1565), pp. 145–7, in reference to John Jewel, An apologie, or aunswer in defence of the Church of England concerninge the state of religion vsed in the same (1562), p. 21.

102 Hutton, Ronald, ‘The English Reformation and the evidence of folklore’, Past & Present, 148 (1995), pp. 89116, at pp. 102–4.

I would like to thank my Ph.D. supervisors, Professor Craig Muldrew and Professor Ulinka Rublack, for their continual encouragement and their comments on earlier versions of this article. Thanks are also due to Dr Kate Peters, who jointly supervised my M.Phil. research at the University of Cambridge, from which this article originally stems. My thanks to the anonymous reviewers at the Historical Journal for their constructive feedback. I gratefully acknowledge the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Levy-Plumb Fund at Christ's College through the award of a doctoral scholarship.

REFORMING FOOD AND EATING IN PROTESTANT ENGLAND, c. 1560–c. 1640

  • ELEANOR BARNETT (a1)

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