Eighteenth-century 'Foxe': History, Historiography, and Historical Consciousness
by Devorah Greenberg


This essay begins and ends by identifying the subject of our discourse and indicating some of the ways that it collapses the boundaries drawn among history, historiography, and historical consciousness. Blurring these borders helps to account for continued confidence in the significant influence of 'Foxe' throughout the centuries, despite a demonstrated lack of surviving texts or references in appropriate sources. A speculative foray into school dormitories and home parlours encourages inquiry also into the texts' erotic effects to account for their continued commemorative force. Disrupting consensus about the specific effects of 'Foxe', I review several editions of Books of Martyrs that do not participate in a narrowly nationalistic, anti-Catholic and/or anti-papist campaign. The cultural milieu indicated by these sentiments conditioned reception of Foxeian publications, and later analysts' interpretations, but many editors had other primary purposes, which included: promoting tolerance and due process of law; constructing universal histories [qua history] as sources of connection through all denominations and nations; and providing examples of appropriate resistance as Christian practice, positively valued, and as models for learned ministry. My findings argue for more nuanced readings of these texts, making distinctions between Catholic and papist, and pursuing the implications of understanding interpretation as a consequence of expectation conditioning perception. It is at this point, I believe, that 'Foxe' offers the greatest opportunity for unsettling perceptions and conceptions, not only of what eighteenth-century editors intended by their publications and how they were received, but also what contemporary researchers intend by their interpretations, and what accepting this subject 'Foxe' implies for how we might research, write, and teach history.

The Subject 'Foxe'

The subject of our discourse is not self-evident. In response to my inquiry, David Loades commented that 'John Foxe' 'is really a code term for the whole corpus of his work,' and, judging from the Foxe colloquia and collections, includes the derivative Books of Martyrs which Patrick Collinson appears to have dubbed 'Continuing Foxe'. Collinson's related term, 'Foxe-in-action', from his contexts, incorporates the readers' interpretations in the making of textual communities, which encourages his suggesting a modified reception history to study this subject. Jesse Lander (1997), Patrick Collinson (1999) and I (2002) introduce a fourth term, 'Foxe', which recommends considering not only the readers' interpretations but also the theories that destablize this historical subject, and all others. Foxe-in-quotation marks, as explained in another essay, is a methodological response to epistemic challenges that has itself methodological consequences. Taking 'Foxe' as our subject signals and requires significant responsiveness to insights that fundamentally challenge historical methodological assurance.[1]

The subject Acts and Monuments~Book of Martyrs is quite apparent. The linked titles refer to specifically identifiable books called Foxe (unmarked). A bibliographic study might readily list contributors to the linked titles, but the sobriquet, Foxe, indicates a more elusive subject, a particular contribution to national/historical English consciousness that has been the study of several scholars. 'Foxe', stepping the subject once more outward, refers to the books, to the readers' readings, to the readings of analysts reading the readers, and includes readings from theorists reading the analysts, my reading, and, I would argue, now also yours.

There is some matter before us. We do not know what this matter is. It appears to be collected piles of books, all shapes and sizes, all sharing an interest. They contain stories of Protestant martyrs, in English. All purport to be from the same author, 'abridged', 'embellished', and 'derived' from his text, the 'best' of 'Foxe's Book of Martyrs'. Each is part of a series of related editions commonly called Foxe, even though they cannot possibly be by that author. Their publication dates span four hundred years. 'Foxe', we might write in that case, as the name that people called the books.

A vibrant overlay now covers the books, a charged space generated by dozens and hundreds of readers, and thousands more who hear of their readings. People open the books and name them, speak of the texts that they find there, think about what they've read, and act in specific ways because of how they read. They converse with others in communal discourses where Foxe (reduced, perhaps, to only the referenced example of a martyr named in a ballad) was one of their shared texts, its meanings maybe negotiated, maybe agreed. Foxe-in-quotation marks, this new matter before us, includes the meanings made by readers, starting with their naming the book(s) and extending to comprehending how they understood their readings.

'Foxe' takes us from the usual primary texts into a new primary territory, to observing the language and cosmos of the several editors and their communities. Reception history, new historicism, cultural and literary studies explicate 'Foxe' at this level in various contexts. These forms of study can assist the British Academy's invitation for research into what Collinson called 'continuing Foxe', meaning the Book of Martyrs, sixteenth century onward. Even the primary texts, however, are not obvious. Works included in a bibliography of Foxe are not the same as those in a bibliography of works contributing to 'Foxe'. Reading readers' interpretations is a more difficult matter to approach than is arranging a list of titles describing the books that we had first encountered - Acts and Monuments~Book of Martyrs. Not only do we now seek to understand the readers' reading, but also their contexts to make sense of their readings.

New figures therefore appear in the field, taking notes about the books and also observing the readers. These new arrivals read the books and the readers of the books in context of their historical, cultural and literary milieus. They attend most to the first books, pushing aside the pulp versions, the tracts and ballads, in favour of the original editions, which they carefully read, excising and commenting on portions of text. A few produce, a few times over, critical abridgments of the first editions which attract the mass of these new readers who successively attend to the latest critical abridgment with forays back to the original editions for verifications.[2]

Into this busy field enters yet another set of readers who observe the interpreters of the readers and propose theories about both lots - whether they can read at all, how to understand their reading, texts, discourses, communities, and their making of meanings if meaning is made.[3]

Approaching 'Foxe'

Among the challenges presented by all this matter, as posed by Mark Bevir, whose Logic of the History of Ideas provided the focus for debate in a recent edition of Rethinking History, is that 'once we accept post-foundationalism, we have to grant that our accounts of the past are always informed by our historically specific theories and concerns'. From that, he claims, we must 'declare the whole business of history to be impossible,' or find a way 'beyond such defeatism. We need to find a way of considering which theories may play an acceptable role in our construction of the past. … An appeal to poetics [for example] serves as a useful reminder of the fact that we necessarily construct the past through our creative imagination, but it does nothing to distinguish epistemologically legitimate and illegitimate ways of doing so.'[4]

Bevir speaks here, in concert with others, to the problems of disciplinary reflection and borders - beyond what points are we no longer doing history? Responses collected in this edition of Rethinking History include ideas 'about ideas, how they are formulated, how they are used and, consequently, how they affect the development of the discipline we call history.' Such questions and conclusions are not in the common repertoire of most practicing historians and specifically not among many of the historians who use Acts and Monuments as a resource.[5] 'Foxe' however - both the term and its implications - collapses the distinctions drawn about the fields of history, historiography, and historical consciousness, which permit this disciplinary exclusivity.

Historiography, as the study of the writing of history, is in this case subsumed in history, as that which happened in the past and continues into the colloquial present. Discussing Foxe (unmarked) in the constructions of historical (national/religious) consciousness has been always also a discussion about the meaning and the writing of history. Approaching this subject puts us into a liminal zone between borders, where relations slip from one category to another - from writing history, to discussing history writing (historiography), to discussing history in human consciousness (historical consciousness and collective memory). While it is possible to contextualize data in a single category, to make them explicitly 'historical' data, in the interests of understanding 'Foxe' these categories are more helpfully left with blurring borders. There is still much work to be done in each area, especially as scholars turn their attention to 'continuing Foxe', to 'Foxe-in-action', to 'Foxe', and particularly to the implications of using these terms.

Even so simple a matter of periodization presents difficulties in researching 'Foxe'. The 'long eighteenth-century', as Eirwen Nicholson applied it in her earlier analysis serves well, in part because historians conventionally treat the late 1600s to early 1800s as a single coherent period, and because the texts cross over from one century to another. Ellis Hookes' 1682 Spirit of Martyrs Revived, for example, saw reprintings in 1718 and 1750, the second edition appearing on account of 'the first being stifled in King James IId's reign'. Samuel Clarke's Continuation of the Martyrs appeared as part of Wesley's texts in mid-century, and Wesley's text, in turn was reprinted in 1819. Hookes' and Clarke's works also arguably influenced the development of universal histories of martyrology that appeared first in the eighteenth century. Their texts were complemented by major editions offered by 'An Impartial Hand' in 1732, 1741, 1746, 1754; Thomas Mason in 1747; John Wesley in 1751; Martin Madan, who took over as editor of the text first produced by 'an Impartial Hand', in 1761, 1776 and 1784; by Henry Southwell in 1764-5, 1770, and 1795; Paul Wright in 1782, 1784, 1785, 1790, and 1794; Jeremiah Jordan in 1795; and (perhaps) anonymously in 1702, 1746, 1754, 1764-5, 1765, 1784, 1795.[6]

The Gap in Eighteenth-Century Examples

An early eighteenth-century edition was, by its own account, produced because 'this valuable Book of English Martyrs [had] grown so very scarce as to be rarely found but in the closets of the learned or curious'.[7] The editor's sense of the scarcity of 'Foxe' indicates a genuine lack of surviving texts - signaled by 'the gap in the bookshelf,' as Eirwen Nicholson styles it.[8] While my bibliography is not exhaustive, it is indicative. Just over fifty printings of Books of Martyrs hardly begins to reach the increasingly literate populace of eighteenth-century England. Even if the distribution were primarily to those in the south-eastern counties (the original catch pool of the Marian martyrs and dominant in the lists of towns selling abridgements), so few publications could not account for the impact claimed for Foxe's work.

The 'gap' occurred not only in the bookshelf. Nicholson finds few instances of Foxeian illustrations or influences among later anti-popish iconography and she observes that assertions of the text's status as a resource for sermons are simply unproven. From my own reading, among a half dozen eighteenth-century diarists, at least four of whom we might anticipate at least familiarity with Foxe's text, none refers to it. Even Hester Thrale Piozzi, despite frequent references to the apocalypse, direct observations about the papacy (which she believes she has 'outlived') and the Gordon riots (which nearly resulted in damage to Thrale's brewery) never mentions Foxe's text, its derivatives or implications.[9] This paucity of extant texts or even references in likely sources extends also to the Americas.

Frank Bremer can show 'traces only' of Foxe in New England libraries, a few references, and excerpts; 'actual holdings are few'. Yet he concludes that Foxe's influence was 'miasmic,' 'so much a part of the culture that it needed few direct references … or attribution'. Foxe was carried into America by Cotton Mather, who 'hoped to become the American Foxe,' and was embedded in the New English Primer through the verses of Rogers to his children. Bremer observed that from Foxe's 'example of godly men and women' readers found links to the true Church of England and a history of non-conforming congregations, with reinforced identity as Englishmen. The martyrs' example, he found, helped to promote literacy and 'a union of magistracy and ministry', assisted arguing 'the dangers of persecution' and the value of toleration (eg. Quakers). Bremer's conclusion about Foxe's influence was echoed by Patrick Collinson, 'Foxe' was as important in America as on this side of the water,' and by David Loades, 'pervasive' in both America and England.[10]

Sources of Influence: Historical Foxe

How can these scholars show so little evidence yet assert their conclusions so confidently? The prevalence of a Foxeian tradition has not been proven, nor even the pervasiveness of stories of the martyrs, yet it would be difficult to doubt either claim. Proofs exist most, I believe, in the works of historians who have promoted Foxe's vision. Where we will find evidence of 'Foxe' - complementing the witness of surviving editions and references in library lists and wills - is in the (equivalent) footnotes of Cambridge and Oxford historians. In the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries we might profitably seek 'Foxe' in school curricula, religious and historical.

While the two fields of study have close connections, particularly but not exclusively for English folk, we may do well to seek 'Foxe' more in historical than religious instruction and texts. Long after the coarser emotionalism of 'Foxe' had been repudiated by Anglican Church members, English classrooms must have continued to reinscribe Foxe's constructions, more or less unexamined, because they were embedded in the observations, conclusions and documents of the historians that English school boys were taught and read. That 'Foxe' formed part of school curricula might be demonstrated by the frequency with which materials and insights from his text infuse the works of later historians, especially those on the English church establishment and resistance, but also histories on the Tudor-Stuart monarchies and, later, their people.

As Erna Paris observes, great evils cast long shadows that influence later historical manipulations, which may account, in part, for why Bremer, Collinson, and Loades can conclude that Foxe's influence was 'pervasive' even though they are able to show few extant editions of Acts and Monuments~Book of Martyrs. As with Dickens' work, Foxe's influence appears in the footnotes, no less 'derived from Foxe's great book' than other commentaries but intended for different purposes.[11]

Several indications as to which historians were most influenced by Foxe and replicated or supplemented his readings for future instruction occurs in secondary literature on 'Foxe' and in historiographical commentary. Daniel Woolf, for example, explains John Ward's use of Foxe's materials. He also finds references to Acts and Monuments in the histories of Selden, Speed, and Scott, in Hayward countering Foxe on the Lollards, and in Milton. David McKitterick comments that John Strype 'himself owned Foxe's surviving papers', and that he observed a 'dearth' of ecclesiastical histories in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Styrpe attributed this lack to the 'slothfulness of that age', claiming that it was relieved only by the industry of John Foxe on whose work he was deeply dependent. Thomas Freeman includes also Drake, Beza, Munday, Hakluyt, and Fuller.[12] Recognizing the collapsing of borders among historiography, history, and historical consciousness in this case may help to explain the diffusion of a text that cannot be otherwise much located.

Sources of Influence: Eroticized Foxe

Knowledge of the text and its hoary load of martyrs could well have spread also by schoolboy discoveries and night elaborations of a fascination with the macabre, sexual language, violence, and judicious torture. One woodcut or martyr's tale, described by candlelight in a school dormitory, could be enough to fix 'Foxe' fully and forever in the minds of listeners. 'Foxe' as pornography, or even as erotica, has received little attention but is implied on several accounts. Freeman described Elizabeth Tonna's narrative of encountering the Book of Martyrs as a child. She was 'horror-stricken' yet 'devoured' every woodcut 'with aching eyes and a palpitating heart'.[13] I have a recurrent image of some young man of the house, permitted to look through 'Foxe' alone in the parlour, having his senses awakened by Anne Askew's testimony (which Bale translated into the public realm equally as a protestant martyrdom and a story of state politics) - encountering there scenes of a single woman on a stone floor, encircled by men who are badgering her with words, forcing answers from her, first threatening then torturing her on the rack, again and again, over days, one inquisitor himself taking the wheel until her body was broken and she was carried on a chair to her end at the stake.

The hypothetical young man may have been stirred to religious piety or he might have experienced more physical responses. We could inquire into how much John Foxe and his printer may have manipulated sexually charged elements of their materials in the original texts, in addition to seeing what later editors made of them. Foxe's description of the garden scene with Bishop Bonner, for example: the well-known scene is portrayed in a full page woodcut showing a man kneeling with his head held between another man's legs, trousers at his knees, bare buttocks torn and bleeding, and Bonner, gown off, in only his shirt and swollen tights, whaling away with birch rods. The writer comments that when Bonner's first whip was 'worn well nigh to the stumps, he called for a birchen rod which a lad brought him out of his chamber'. This invites the question: why would Bonner have known there was a birch rod in his (the boy's or the Bishop's) chamber? This is not a question posed here about Bishop Bonner. Rather it is a question about why the author of the tale told it this way.[14] John N. King notes that John Bale sustained a long-standing feud with Bonner and that among Foxe's papers is a copy of a 'foul-mouthed letter ' upbraiding Edmund Bonner for cruelty to Protestant prisoners; it rants, 'Oh you bloudy Boner … Tyrant of Sodoma, and proude painted prelate of Gomorra'. Bishop Bonner is also depicted in another woodcut threatening a man (Thomas Tomkins) with fire and pain while other men sit in attendance.[15]

Inquiry into the sexually charged elements of 'Foxe', this text that as early as the second edition contained a double-page explicit display of tortures inflicted on men and women, could be instructive.[16] Deborah G. Burks referred to images of Bonner's 'sadistic behaviour', unpacking them within a 'carnivalesque' rather than pornographic tradition. Research into eroticized or pornographic Foxe might benefit from considering how, as Peter Meyer commented, images of the holocaust 'have had and continue to have a kind of pornographic pull on the attention and the imagination of viewers.'[17]

The Anti-Papist Book of Martyrs?

Further inquiry might also be made into the role of popular martyrological history in the constructions of this English example of a highly functional nationalism. The first repeated version of the eighteenth-century martyrologies appeared in 1732. Produced anonymously, The Book of Martyrs contains 'an account of the sufferings and death of Protestants in the reign of Mary the first'. It is truly a 'book of English martyrs,' as the editor claims in the preface. Illustrated with copper plates, and 'revised and corrected by an impartial hand,' the work was intended to be sold piecemeal, in sheaves, to reach the widest audience possible. It was reprinted in 1741 in 'seventy numbered parts', and again in 1746 and 1754.[18] A noted Wesleyan preacher, Martin Madan reissued the text in 1761, 'revised and corrected with a recommendatory preface'. In 1776 he complemented the work with a second volume, also based on the Acts and Monuments. Expanding both geographically and temporally, The Lives of the Primitive Martyrs accounts for martyrs 'from the Birth of Our Blessed Saviour to the Reign of Queen Mary'. Both volumes were reprinted again in 1784.[19]

Madan's work, William Haller concluded - taking us to a source of common convention - accomplished much the same purpose as had two other major editions of the century, Paul Wright's New and Complete Book of Martyrs, or, An Universal History of Martyrdom, and John Wesley's abridgement of Acts and Monuments. These editors compressed the stories of the martyrs, omitted secular history, revised the language to make it more 'intelligible' and, at least in the case of Wesley, removed anything that was not 'particularly affecting or instructive'. This resulted in the loss of Foxe's account of English ecclesiastical and national history that Haller thought had dignified the sufferings of the martyrs. These and other abridgements therefore signaled to him 'a progressive corruption and vulgarization of the original for the propagation of an increasingly narrow evangelical Protestant piety'.[20]

Concurring with Haller and expanding on his theme, Warren Wooden found that the later editors were interested in Foxe's work less as an ecclesiastical history than as a martyrology. 'Thus by the eighteenth century', he concluded, 'Foxe's book ... passed into the hands of Protestant zealots concerned less with his meticulous tracing of history than with the book's effectiveness as inspired propaganda in kindling anti-Catholic sentiment'.[21] Even the original text may have appealed more to feeling than to intellect, but not to the extent of some of the later editions that lost entirely, according to Haller and Wooden, intellect's leavening influence. Warning that 'the enemy is the same and unchanging', editors added portions to Foxe's original text in an effort to help 'the common reader identify with the heroic martyrs of Marian England'. They made of the work, Wooden concluded, 'little more than a tool to club Catholics.'[22]

Colin Haydon, in common with many others, more recently also argues that the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Book of Martyrs promoted popular, narrowly nationalistic, anti-Catholic sentiments. There is no reason to dispute the claim that later editions could have been mobilized for anti-papist campaigns. Gerald Newman and Linda Colley, among others, have deeply implicated xenophobia in the form(s) of nationalism emerging in this period. Foxe's text could have been well used in what Newman referred to as 'cultural warfare'.[23] Haydon's (and others') interchangeable use of the terms 'Catholicism' and 'Popery', 'Papist', and 'Catholic', however, obscures important distinctions even while drawing our attention toward them. As he notes, 'Popery was not simply a synonym for Catholicism'.[24]

John Wesley remarked in his journal on the removal of 'Papists' from London during the days of feared (French) invasion in the spring of 1744. Sullied by contrived association with 'Papists', he could not travel during these days of removal. He feared personal injury at the hands of 'rude, gaping, and rabble-rout' mobs whipped up by the gentry.[25] 'Protestants! [Englishmen]' Wesley lamented in his journal, excusing the mobs as drunken and poor; hired and misled by (miscalled) gentlemen,'by', he concluded in a reversal of epithets, 'Papists'.[26]

The terms need further consideration.[27] The mobs' lack of discrimination between Methodist and Catholic is more apparent than real and their distinction may be central to understanding the forms of religious nationalism that defined Wesley's society and the effects of Foxe's work. As Cranmer explained it from an earlier era (through Foxe): 'I am a subject, I owe fidelity to the crown. The pope is contrary to the crown. I cannot obey both'.[28] John Wesley, however misguided, or possibly dangerous, owed no allegiance to foreign powers. He could swear the Oath. The Test Acts and public agitation to preserve them in the eighteenth century, such as the Gordon riots of 1780, and similar dissent throughout English history concerned, in part, an understanding of religious and national identity that was assisted by Foxe's text.[29]

That English folk were meant to be assisted to anti-papist attitudes by editions of 'Foxe' is explicitly supported by some editors' comments. Matthew Taylor observed that 'the many attempts that have been lately made by Popish Emissaries to spread their errors and superstitions … is the cause of his laying the following work before the public'.[30] Another publication displays a table of contents that accuses the papacy of instigating persecutions including the Spanish Armada, Irish rebellion and siege of Londonderry, Gunpowder Treason, Fire of London, Murder of Sir Edmundbury Godfrey, and conspiracies against William III, and closes with a 'short account of the most material errors taught in the Romish Church'.[31] Implying that Foxe's offerings had failed to warn folk adequately enough of the dangers, Thomas Bray produced Papal Usurpation and persecution as it has been exercised in ancient and modern times with respect both to princes and people, 'designed as a supplementary to the Book of Martyrs', in which he noted that 'a Papist, qua Papist, i.e. acting intirely [sic] according to the Principles of their Religion, cannot be an honest Man, a good Neighbour, a good Friend, or a good Subject'.[32]

Explicitly anti-papist focus and motives for publication are, however, more rare than common in eighteenth-century Foxe-derived printings, and the editors' distinctions between catholic and papist are both clear and necessary. While warning Britons of the dangers of an unchanging papacy, indeed, while 'boldly PROTEST[ing] against the emancipation of Catholics', John Milner enjoined his readers specifically to 'learn to distinguish between bad principles and the persons who hold them'.[33] Thomas Bray's claim that papists could not be good neighbours was also likely enough contradicted by personal experience of catholic neighbours who were honest friends and good subjects, to require in its wake an accommodation that could redeem these specific examples from the generalized type.[34]

Not 'Just' Martyrologies: Readers Be Wary

The eighteenth-century editions have been correctly described as martyrologies, but they are not merely martyrologies or fairly to be described as 'Foxe's bastards'.[35] Eighteenth-century readers who adopted and interpreted 'Foxe' circumscribed the text's meaning by their common subjectivity, which was not one that John Foxe or his community would/could have shared. This may be inevitable, because, 'just as the text frees meaning from the orbit of mental intention', as Brian Stock explains, 'it also liberates the written work from the sphere of situational reference'. Stock concludes that 'the conscious reliving of an earlier text constitutes a new version of the experience', a point that may assist understanding 'Foxe' in the inquiries before us.[36] Collinson has already indicated the utility of Stock's insights into the formation of textual communities, and how the second text is a combination of the original and an interpretation, an example, then, of 'Foxe-in-action'.

It is the second that influences behavior [Stock concludes]: the members of the group, having imbibed the message, go forth into the world - not the world of language, or of speech acts, but the world of events - and carry out actions based upon their textually formed beliefs … (my underlining).[37]

In Stock's framework the rereadings may be of greater interest than the first readings. The later editions of 'Foxe', then, are not just bastardized versions of the great Acts and Monuments. Each reading is an engagement with a text that, as Steven Mullaney puts it, is 'not a retrospective, but a proleptic work, less a mass of documentary evidence than a series of sites for the apprehension, affective investment, and reconfiguration of the ideological and political subjects who read it'.[38] As in the game played by children passing a message orally, information may alter in transmission. At any point of interruption in the chain, however, what is revealed to be the message at that point is not just a mistake, or simply warped from the original, but a true expression of its current guise. The editors also, unlike children playing, had purposeful motives that validated their choices in ways that later researchers do a disservice to ignore.

The Editors' Purposes

The editors included in my study restricted their selections to stories of the martyrs. This does not mean, however, that they were unappreciative of the historical significance of Foxe's work, nor of their own. As Walsh, Haydon, and Taylor have indicated, religion and religiously motivated questions permeated eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English societies and intellectual traditions. We should not be surprised, then, if religion, theology, and martyrology complemented and interwove with history 'proper' for these editors.[39] The editors took three clear approaches to the text that contradict conditioned expectation that their printings of 'Foxe' primarily promoted and were prompted by narrow, nationalistic anti-Catholicism: Universal histories; Martyrologies as a locus for promoting tolerance; and Foxe's martyrology as instruction in active Christianity and, particularly, in support of learned ministry.

Universal Histories of Martyrdom

Eighteenth-century examples of the universal histories of martyrdom, or persecutions, commonly situate England front and centre, as the most blessed of nations among the nations. In 1746, for example, an unknown editor offered 'A select history of … the principle English Protestant martyrs chiefly of those executed in the bloody reign of Queen Mary'. Paul Wright's 1784 edition includes a note that the author 'thinks [it] advisible' to begin with the reign of Mary, and to have the second volume on the primitive martyrs follow as earlier contexts for that history, an example that Madan had also followed in 1760.[40] The editors' focus, however, was less on promoting England, than for drawing together all protestant folk of England, and of the world. Even while speaking primarily to members of the English Church, Thomas Mason addressed his Book of Martyrs, or, the History of the Church.

To the universal catholick church, (namely all believers, of every Denomination whatsoever), Wheresoever dispersed over the face of the Whole Earth, but more particularly, to that part of it established in this nation; and herein especially to those who believe, hold, and maintain … the Church of England.[41]

Paul Wright addressed his work to 'Protestant Readers of Every Denomination'. He sought rapproachement also between members of the established church and 'Protestant Dissenters', whom he haled as having 'equally with us' a 'wish to imitate' these 'splendid examples of fortitude'. Among his inclusions is an 'account of the Western Martyrology, the subjects of which persecution suffered under lawless tyranny and inhuman cruelty of Judge Jeffreys.' These 'eminant heros [sic] and ready patriots were both state and church martyrs,' Wright concludes, keeping fresh in peoples' minds the promise and obligation of English liberties, and the constitutional crisis of the late 1680s.[42]

It became necessary, perhaps, for editors to expand to universal histories as there were fewer examples of persecution closer to home. Thomas Mason, for example, understood persecution as 'a substantial proof of the truth and purity of a doctrine'. Lacking immediate English examples he needed, then, to defend promoting active Christianity and his publication of 'Foxe'. Mason has a detractor object in the preface, to raise the question himself: 'We are become protestants in general, and the reformed church is happily settled … under such a government as will suffer no honest and quiet people to be troubled for their conscience'. To which Mason responds that as 'long as God is God and man is man' the Adversary will contend with God through man.[43]

Despite their Anglo focus, then, from Samuel Clarke onward editors recognized a continuity of experience and active witnessing across generations and throughout all nations, fulfilling a reading that John Foxe probably would have welcomed. While these printings may be characterized as nationalistic in either intent or effect, I find none that are explicitly so, nor any that is 'aggressively patriotic' (Colley). These are specifically universal histories that encourage editors and readers to recognize in common Christian experience the changing face of the persecutor and its unchanging nature.

The Universal 'Adversary' and Tolerance

Samuel Clarke identified the 'Adversary' in his narration of protestant deaths in Lithuania. There the suffering was instigated by the Tartar's rebellion of 1648, augmented by the 'barbarous' Cossacks, continued by the tyranny of the Muscovites, and revived by the 'coming of the Swedes' in 1655, who 'treated us as enemies'. In these cases, 'Papist' refers to the servants of an apocalyptic agency acting in conspiracy against protestants. In Ireland, the 'enemy' acted through 'Jesuits, priests, and friars', whose work was obscured, according to Clarke, by the rubric 'rebellion'. His intimations and descriptions of rape, infanticide, torture and chaos caused by the 'Adversary' fertilized imaginations and opened avenues for the perceived threat of hidden enemies and 'crypto-papists'.[44]

Clarke's assistance in conceiving an unchanging malevolence, or an eschatology that sought the destruction of protestants, may have, however counterintuitively, reduced the virulence of reaction against the current persecutor. It is more difficult to direct hatred toward a specific person or people if they are seen as misguided tools taken up in some larger project, for purposes unknown to them. Far from baiting eighteenth-century protestants into hatred and fear of catholics, such a long view prompts treating contemporary examples as 'dupes' of the papacy, lost souls in need of care - which is a sentiment specifically articulated by several later editors.[45]

Nor did editors much wave the red cloak of popery. Wright's publication, for example, was 'expedient and necessary, even in these days of light and liberty' because there was 'indifference to the doctrine of the gospel' and 'neglect of religious duties', not primarily because the papacy or papistry was a threat. Wright ornamented his edition with an engraving of a fictitious presentation of the 'Gordon Petition', representing the Protestant Association, John Miller notes, as a 'respectable and orderly body and alleg[ing] that the riots were fomented by emisaries of the Papists.'[46] Their threat was real, according to Wright, and his response was to publish 'Foxe' as a 'means of preventing our reformed church from falling into gross error and [to] teach all Christians to set a greater value on that religion which is established in this kingdom'. His goal was not to warn readers of the threat of papal interference - that, rather, was the potential danger that followed on a danger of not attending to a more immediate threat, 'the infidelity and immoralities of the present age, for it is an undeniable truth that Rome too often reaps what profaneness and immorality have sown'.[47]

Historical Intentions

These encyclopedic collections on the subject of martyrs or, as some editors have it, of persecutions, are also quite consciously historical in intent. John Milner, for example, considered his martyrology to be valid history. He equated his genre with church history, or state history, and noted in his preface that the martyrologies of Eusebius, and of St Jerome are 'considered spurious'. Dating the first 'genuine' martyrology from Bede, Milner reviewed the reform of martyrological histories to correct their 'very dubious and frail foundations ... purile [sic] and sometimes ridiculous' claims, and to 'purge the floor of Martyrologies from legends and pious lies'. Its effect was deliberately narrative; evoking more than was said, perhaps invoking a poetic (memorial) response from its readers - along with political action to keep papists out of office and off the throne. The 'major part of his [Foxe's] work is Church History, and often State History,' Milner commented, 'with frequent long, and (to us) uninteresting details of persecutions, dialogues, &c, which suspend the narrative and often prevent the effect which would otherwise be produced in the mind of the reader.' Emphasizing the narrative effect, Milner therefore left out 'the uninteresting church history, correspondence of kings, queens, ministers of state, &c.'[48] Paul Wright also claimed of his New Compleat Book of Martyrs that it was

'Not a trifling summary of mere names - not an inaccurate, lifeless abridgment, not a crude, indigested compendium, not a hasty catch penny publication but a full, complete, and perfect Christian martyrology. … None before [had] such a delicate, satisfactory, and extensive plans … [many editions] are inaccurate, incomplete, and too general, confused in methodology and inelegant.'[49]

Wright's and Milner's understanding of the roles and expectations of martyrologies was surely not isolated. John Foxe's desire to remove the fabulous from his own text was a goal that his inheritors thought fulfilled. Their works were not butchered versions of 'Foxe' but rather its continuance and perfection, and their martyrologies had specifically historical purposes.[50] Yet, Foxe's original and derived works do not generally figure in historiographical analyses of history 'proper'. Nicholson commented that The Book of Martyrs 'was a victim of an eighteenth-century historiography of post-Revolution toleration, growing secularism and a torpid Anglicanism' that was reluctant to confront their own xenophobia.[51] Similarly, scholars of the progress and development school of professional historiography have been reluctant to include 'Foxe' and particularly the derived works of 'Foxe', as valid contributions to historical analysis, even in eras when religiously motivated histories were common, and when divisions between church and state business were permeable.

Several of the devices that the editors deploy, Milner's narrative effect, for example, also prefigure late twentieth-century systems for knowledge acquisition and manipulation that we could benefit from considering more fully. Inquiry into the historiographical role of 'Foxe' might also profitably include its influence, as noted above, in constructions of more conventional histories. Commenting on the records of the 'Bloody Assises', such as Wright included for example, G. W. Keeton observes that they were 'inventions of the martyrologists', no more than a 'continuation of the Whig propaganda campaign which Shaftesbury had unleashed in 1679 and which passed all previous bounds in virulence because of the constitutional struggle'. Keeton comments on the 'extraordinary credulity of the Whig historians in their acceptance of the harrowing accounts of journalists as records of fact'.[52] It is also eighteenth-century editors who claim the presence of Acts and Monuments in parish churches as fact - a ploy in part for the promotion of protestantism, but also perhaps to satisfy more mercenary or egoistical impulses. For whichever ends, Paul Wright makes the assertion, addressed to the man who could help to make it happen again. 'Our forefathers ordered Mr Fox's Martyrology to be chained to a desk in some conspicuous part of the parish churches in this land', he instructs King George III, 'that all parishoners might have recourse to them and read them', while seeking the monarch's support and promotion for more 'general access' to this valuable book.[53]

Tolerance and Due Process of Law

Bound in the same volume and immediately following part five of E. H's Brief View is A Christian plea against Persecution for the cause of Conscience, grounded upon Scripture, Reason, Experience, and Testimonies of Princes, and Learned Authors. The title page records Acts V: 38-9:

'Now, I say unto you, refrain from these Men, and let them alone; for if this Counsel, or this Work, be of Men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it lest happily you be found Fighters against God.'[54]

The eighteenth-century Foxeian texts that specifically promote tolerance derive from a form initiated by Ellis Hookes in the seventeenth century. The accused target of these publications is the membership of the Anglican Church. The threat of popery figures primarily as the danger warned to accompany acceptance of Anglican error in perpetuating popish ritual and the persecution of Christian witnesses. Seeing, by the eighteenth century, that the English church was so fully established, editors made their pleas not for correction of established church practice, but to encourage Anglican members' acceptance of differences of opinion. The editors sought relief from persecution, insisted on that relief as right practice under the rule of law in England, and demonstrated violation of that law through the examples of the martyrs.[55]

Ellis Hookes published in support of the rule of law and in favour of relief from persecution for all Christians, and particularly for Quakers. Hookes' Brief View opens with the cosmic battle between God and the 'Evil-One' and the 'corrupt fruits of the False church;' followed by 'sufferings inflicted by the Papists' and reports on 'such as suffered persecution and martyrdom under Episcopacy, &c.' 'I am now come', Hookes explains, 'to the Reign of Queen Elizabeth' and to the story of the 'Puritans'.

'Amongst these Dissenters were Coleman, Burton, Hallingham and Benson, whom the Queen commanded to be committed to Prison; yet it is a thing almost incredible how on a sudden their Followers encreased, known by the envious Name of Puritans, who preached nothing more than Evangelical Purity, crying down the Ecclesiastical Form of Government, as a thing polluted with Romish dregs'.[56]

The second eighteenth-century printing of Hookes' work, The Spirit of Martyrs, is longer than the first edition and equally explicit as to his purposes to constrain members of the established English church from persecution and the abuse of law.

They [churchmen] should not by the Laws of this Land go any further in the cause of Religion than their own Ecclesiastical censure, and then to refer us to the Civil power … [It is] our just petition … We crave for all of us but the Liberty, either to die openly, or to live openly in the Land of our Nativity … not to see us closely murdered, yea, starved to death with hunger and cold, and stifled in loathsome Dungeons![57]

Hookes' printer included the author's petition to king James, nobility, knights and burgesses at Parliament, which complains that 'because our testimony maketh against the irregular Authority of the Prelates, reproveth their evil Actions, and disproveth their Pomp', 'many of us [are] constrained to live in Exile out of native Country, others detained in prisons, all of us in some Affliction, which the Prelates and Clergy of this Land have inflicted upon us'.[58]

Hookes' complaint against the established clergy was taken up by Joseph Bolles to situate the American example. Bolle's 'Persecutions in New England', was attached with the Spirit of the martyrs revived as 'an Addition' (1750), and published separately in America (1758). Bolle's text reviews the cases of those 'called' Anabaptists and Quakers, and offers A brief account of persecutions in Boston and Conneticut Governments:

Whereby it may be seen, that a people may be deceived under the highest conceit of Religion, and thinking they are worshipping God, when, indeed, they are worshipping the Dragon, and persecuting the Children of God, that worship him in Spirit and in Truth [author's emphasis].[59]

'The two governments, to wit Boston and Conneticut', Bolles observes, 'have clothed in practice with this Popish title to defend their institution of worship'. Bolles' goal, through the words of one of his subjects, Mary Dyar, also appeals to Acts V: 38-9, 'therefore be not found fighters against God, but let my Counsel and Request be accepted with you, to repeal all such laws' as permit religious persecution.[60]

Hookes' and Bolles' martyrs appeal to the law - seeking just practice under the law. Their requests that they be killed openly by the law rather than left to rot in isolated cells, their pleas for toleration, echo similar uses of 'Foxe' in the seventeenth century. Joseph Cotton's martyrs, for example, also 'would not be freed except by law'.[61] These dissenters accepted their suffering as required to demonstrate that the law should protect them and did not. We might look, then, to increased publications of 'Foxe' not as an indicator of increased anti-papist sentiment, but in conjunction with rising persecution of dissenting movements and dissenters' efforts to seek surcease from the abuse of law.

In a Tradition of Learned Ministry: Wesley's Christian Library

John Wesley's inclusion in The Christian Library of Clarke's Supplement to Foxe's text argues his own intentional participation in provoking anti-papist sentiments, but his handling of Acts and Monuments stems from a more positive aim than to provide - as Haydon argues was accomplished by anti-Catholic sentiment - 'a negative definition of what was good and acceptable'[62] Throughout his work with Foxe's text Wesley does not mention catholics, the pope, or the papacy, and he avoids apocalyptic notions. He refers to the 'two churches', but handles the concept in such a way as to more resemble Augustine's 'two cities' than Foxe's representation of a corrupt papacy wickedly attacking the true Christian church.

I commend two special points to the reader; [Wesley wrote in his introductory passage to Foxe's text] first to observe the disposition and nature of this world; secondly, the nature and condition of the kingdom of Christ; the vanity of the one, and the establishment of the other; the unquiet state of the one, ruled by man's violence and wisdom, and the happy success of the other, ever ruled by God's blessing and providence ... The world I call all such as are without or against Christ ... On the other side, the kingdom of Christ in this world I take to be all them which belong to the faith of Christ; the number of whom, although it be much smaller than the other, and always hated and molested of the world; yet it is the number which the Lord doth particularly bless and prosper, and ever will. And this number of Christ's subjects is that which we call the visible church in earth.[63]

Avoiding the distraction of how Wesley transposed in this passage the notions of 'visible' and 'invisible' from those of John Foxe, it is clear that the editor missed a sterling opportunity to fan the flames of anti-catholic sentiment, if that was what he intended. Wesley, however, worked for more positive ends than to excite hatred or to create religious identification only through opposition to the 'other'.

I set upon cleansing Augeus' stable, [Wesley wrote] upon purging that huge work, Mr. Foxe's Acts and Monuments, from all the trash which that honest, injudicious writer has heaped together and mingled with those most venerable records which are worthy to be had in everlasting remembrance.'[64]

Among the 'trash' that Wesley dumped from John Foxe's Acts and Monuments is most of the material on relations between the papacy and the German empire, retaining only two brief examples concerning England and Germany. Doctrinal disputations largely disappear. Apocalyptic musings fall away. Neither the secular history of England is included, nor that of the Bohemians, Italians, Hungarians, or Turks, although Wesley does include the persecutions of the Merindolians and Waldenseans. Civil, marital, and religious matters under Henry VIII occur only as they touch directly on Thomas Cromwell's life. Documents outlining the course of reform under Edward VI and the process of Mary's reversion of the country to Rome's tutelage are also not used, nor are most of the stories of the common English folk whom John Foxe included.

Wesley's martyrs are learning and learned men, among them only three women: Mrs Smith 'with seven others', Anne Boleyn, beheaded; and Anne Askew, racked and burned. Women appear more often in the section on the Roman martyrs and in Clarke's Supplement (in both cases as valiant victims), but of the common women's stories that John Foxe included none appeared in Wesley's text, nor do many of the common men's stories.[65] Educated men fully dominate, their academic pedigree advanced in the first few sentences of each tale, culminating in the examples of Dr Farrar, John Bradford, and John Philpot, and in the stories of Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer.

John Wesley, the most conventionally influential of all the editors of 'Foxe', favoured different models from Acts and Monuments than did Gerrard Winstanley. Thomas Hayes finds that the Digger Winstanley, son of a mercer, looked to George Marsh, Rawlings White, and William Hunter, to tradesmen and cloth workers, to 'people of little formal education'. If (as William Lamont says) Foxe can be said to have 'domesticated the Apocalypse', Wesley helped to tame the Godly, and he did it, in part, through his reading of 'Foxe'.[66]

John Wesley entered a tradition of ministry, including himself in a community across time. He linked himself specifically to John Foxe's ministry not only through editing Foxe's text, but also by imitating his example to continue his work. Mr Clarke, among others, followed Foxe's precedent and collected the stories of later and 'foreign' martyrs to expand on the original. A hundred years later Wesley also augmented Foxe's text. Clarke's Supplement,occupying the last quarter of volume three in the Christian Library, is only the first of Wesley's choices of works to be added to the Acts and Monuments.[67]

In Wesley's construction, seventeenth-century Puritans assumed the mantle of the sixteenth-century martyrs. From their example Wesley took strength, direction, and perhaps hope that the following generation would preserve his own monuments. Among the martyrs' inheritors were seventeenth-century writers whose works, except for Wesley's own labour, might have been lost. Among their inheritors is Wesley himself and he chose as examples from Foxe's text others like himself.[68]

Wesley fitted Acts and Monuments into a tradition of learned ministers - a purpose that might have pleased John Foxe. In the sixteenth century, ministers went out from the universities carrying the new religion into the counties surrounding London. Their stories and lives were recorded in Foxe's great book. In the seventeenth century ministers again went out from Oxford and Cambridge carrying their messages to the counties. Wesley recorded their lives and works in the Christian Library. So in his own century, ministers went forth from the universities to teach. As in the sixteenth century, they carried a message supposed known among the English - known in the blood of the British line and in the blood of the Lamb - a knowledge thought to be awoken and revived by the words of their ministers, Wesley among them, with Foxe in heart and mind.

Directions and Implications

Collinson's modified reception history and the subject 'Foxe' promote understanding and researching textual development as the result not of a single maturing intellect but of a cumulative and continually responsive process of communal readings.[69] Putting our subject into ironic quotation marks also indicates a reflexive subject, meaning that the construction reflects back on its makers. Several communities, then, need to be considered in its analysis, including that of contemporary historians as we weave and reweave the textures of this text and its influences. We might approach this subject that comprises such a 'vast, utterly unmanageable body of primary historiography', as well as several complicating theories, through 'fourth-attitude historiography', as Allen Megill proposes, to 'engage not in the dredging up of new facts' but 'instead engage in the philosophical task of reflecting on the significance of facts already in some sense 'known'.[70]

The implications of 'Foxe' are elusive; yet not very difficult to say. The readers' interpretations contribute to the construction of this subject, which includes, then, the researchers' interpretations - of both the original subject and how we've constructed our understanding of it. To be fully responsive to the implications, whatever is written about the subject should also invite or, ideally, entail - as an inalienable possession of humans in time and history - the readers' self-reflection. Among the consequences, as seen in the example of 'Foxe', is that the product is not the result of a single maturing intellect. It is collaborative, promotes valuing process over product, encourages personal experience and self-engagement. How we would write a history that could replicate or encourage this process is still uncertain.

Some subjects permit being frozen by description, gelled into models, with a minimum of distortion. Many subjects, and reflexive subjects among them, require more malleable forms and processes of descriptions than those currently permitted in historical inquiries and communications. The subject is elusive because at the last it is about the self who makes and plays (homo faber et homo ludens). That subject is receiving attention, as, for example, by Robert Rosenstone who raises the very issue of how to narrate the story: 'How and where to begin? With the personal or the historical? The history or the historian?' We find the similar words, Luisa Passerini continues, at the beginning of the final chapter too: 'How to conclude? With the personal and the historical. The history and the historian'.[71]

At a more basic level, we still have not got a bibliography of surviving texts for even the primary subject Foxe (unmarked). A locations bibliography might be researched on-line and would be a resource as a publication history, but how we would research the audiences is less clear. Editions that I have located are also not generally circulating due to their fragility. Microfilming might be done carefully to avoid some of the errors that Freeman indicates plagues earlier filmings, but there is no substitute for seeing the original, which would entail travel to several locations in order to assess the texts adequately. Collinson has also suggested that a reception history of the texts may not be possible at all. One route for grasping the diffusion of 'Foxe', perhaps, is through academic histories and references to Foxe's text in surviving school materials, seeking how the histories of each period incorporate and elaborate 'Foxe'. Considering historians as audience, respondents, and promoters of Foxe is indicated by inquiry into the subject 'Foxe', which encourages professional reflection about the nature, methodologies, subjects and purposes of historical craftings, and invites further inquiry into the relations among history, historiography, and historical consciousness.

We might also usefully inquire into the role of martyrological histories in constructions of national identity, and consider how a sense of persecution can instigate and justify either hostility or humility. Stephen Mullaney comments that part of John Foxe's task in writing these stories of resistance was to 'guard against encouraging further resistance to established authority'.[72] Wesley's treatment, and other editions reviewed here, suggest that resistance was constant and consistently passive - a conclusion that applies more fully to those texts written advancing tolerance for Quakers, than it does for the universal histories that take a kinder view of the established church. In the first case resistance is seen as occurring within the state; in the second case resistance is externally focused - toward opposing the threat of foreign powers (France, Napoleon, and symbolically, if not actually, the papacy and the 'Adversary'). Eighteenth-century applications of Foxe's stories of persecution, however, indicate that these texts may have initiated anti-popery less commonly than they aimed to discourage intolerance and to promote vigilant defence of liberties. That we have for generations read the reverse order - indeed have little commented on the role of Foxeian texts in promoting tolerance, is a piece of the puzzle that needs untangling. It may be that those least threatened - in fact - are also those most ready to find and provoke virulent responses, while those most truly at risk prepare to forgive or negotiate with their enemies. The example of the post 9/11 United States, 2003, could prove a challenging contemporary counterpoint to such an inquiry.


David Loades, Personal communication. 16 June 2002;

Jesse Lander, ''Foxe's' Book of Martyrs: Printing and Popularizing the Acts and Monuments', Religion and Culture in Renaissance England, eds. Claire McEachern and Debora Shuger (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 69-92;

Patrick Collinson, 'John Foxe and National Consciousness,' John Foxe and His World, eds. Christopher Highley and John N. King (Aldershot, Hants Eng/Burlington, Vt., 2002), pp. 10-36;

Devorah Greenberg, ''Foxe' as a Methodological Response to Epistemic Challenges: The Book of Martyrs Transported,' in John Foxe at Home and Abroad ed. David Loades (Ashgate, 2004), pp. 237-55.


Timothy Bright was the first to state the fear that his abridgement 'hid the rich treasures' to which his book could be only 'an assay, an appetite ... a taste.'

Timothy Bright, Abridgement of the book of the Acts and Monuments of the Church (London, 1589), i.


Foucault claimed that the author 'is the ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning.'

'What is an author?' Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York, 1984), p. 119.

The author/name 'Foxe', however, appears to mark the manner in which we may now invite and welcome that proliferation.


Mark Bevir, 'Philosophy, Rhetoric and Power: A Response to Critics,' Rethinking History: Journal of Theory and Practice 4.3 (2000): 341-50, quotation 343.


Kevin Sharpe observes that although 'much of the theoretical and interdisciplinary work of the last two decades has been concerned with the Renaissance', its historians continue resistant to substantive changes.

Kevin Sharpe, Reading Revolutions: The Politics of Reading in Early Modern England (New Haven, 2000), 7-10, quotation 10.


Anonymity in these cases may have resulted from a clerk failing to enter the editor's name on the library entry, but this is unlikely. Given that authorship began to constitute ownership after 1710 in England, it is a little surprising that editors are not named more often.

Information taken from Devorah Greenberg, 'Reflexive Foxe: The Book of Martyrs Transformed, 'Foxe' reinterpreted - sixteenth through twenty-first centuries', diss. Simon Fraser University, 2002, pp. 291-323, and a bibliography of eighteenth-century texts (appendix I).


'An Impartial Hand,' The Book of Martyrs (London, 1732), i.


Eirwen Nicholson, 'Eighteenth Century Foxe: Evidence for the Impact of the Acts and Monuments in the 'long' eighteenth century', John Foxe and the English Reformation, ed. David Loades (Aldershot, 1997), pp. 143-77, 'the gap,' pp. 168-71.


Katherine Balderston, ed. Thralania: The Diary of Hester Lynch Thrale, 1761-1809, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1942); examples:

papacy I: pp. 635, 724, 762-3; 'outlived' pp. 979-80 and p. 1076; apocalypse I: pp. 776-7, pp. 851, 854-5, 872-3, 878-82; Gordon riots I: pp. 437, 440-41, 450-51.


Frank Bremer, 'Foxe in the Wilderness', John Foxe: Beyond England, fourth Foxe colloquium, Boston, England, 2-4 July 2001.

Bremer's text and the others' comments from my notes.

Eighteenth-century Yale library catalogues include Magdeburgensis, but no listings for Foxe. They do have a history of England 'especially of the Reformation', another of the 'primitive church', and of the 'first ten persecutions', which may have been taken from Acts and Monuments. The library also held Strype and Heylin's histories of the Reformation, both by authors influenced by Foxe.

James E. Morgan, ed. Eighteenth-century Catalogues of the Yale College Library (New Haven, 2001).


Erna Paris, Long Shadows: Truth, Lies, and History (2000. Toronto, 2001);

Arthur G. Dickens, The English Reformation, 2nd ed. (1964. London, 1989).


Daniel Woolf, Reading History in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 11-3;

Daniel Woolf, The Idea of History in Early Stuart England (Toronto/London, 1990), pp. 71, 123, 216-22, 252.

David McKitterick, Cambridge University Library: A History (Cambridge, 1986);

Thomas Freeman, ''Searching out of Books and Autors': John Foxe as an Ecclesiastical Historian' diss. Rutgers University, 1995, pp. 1-2 and 6;

Rosemary O'Day, The Debate on the English Reformation (London, 1984), p. 16.


Thomas Freeman, ''Searching out of Books and Authors': John Foxe as an Ecclesiastical Historian' diss. Rutgers University, 1995, p. 10.


John Foxe, 'Counterfit of Boner scourging God's Saints' Acts and Monuments (London: Day, 1563), p. 1691; 1570 p. 2242.


John N. King, English Reformation Literature: Tudor Origins of the Protestant Tradition (Princeton, 1982), p. 94.

Thomas Tomkins, Foxe, Acts and Monuments 1570, pp. 1710-11.

The burning of Thomas Tompkins hand by Bishop Boner, who not long after burnt also his body

The Tomkins woodcut is a nice bit of Foxeian staging, if, as Jasper Ridley notes, Bonner is not burning Tomkins. According to Charles V's envoy, Renard, Tomkins asked for the fire so that he could show Bonner that he was not afraid. The woodcut shows Tomkins unrestrained.

Jasper Ridley, Bloody Mary's Martyrs: The story of England's terror (London, 2001), p. 79.

See also the whipping of a child, The Martyrdome of a young lad of eight yeares old, scourged to death in Byshop Boners house at London 1570, pp. 2256-57; and

the burning of Rose Allin's hand, The burnyng of Rose Allins hand, by Syr Edmund Tirrell, as she was goyng to fetch drinke for her mother, lying sicke in her bed 1570, pp. 2199-20 woodcut p. 2200;

among others.


'Image of the True Catholicke Church of Christ,' Foxe, Acts and Monuments 1570, un-numbered [BOOK 6]


Deborah G. Burks, 'The Witness of Word and Woodcut', John Foxe and His World: an interdisciplinary colloquium, Ohio State University, 29 April - 2 May 1999.

Peter Meyer, rev. of Remembering to Forget: Holocaust Memory Through the Camera's Eye, by Barbie Zeliezer, Rethinking History 4.3 (2000): pp. 427-31, quotation, p. 428.


'An Impartial Hand,' The Book of Martyrs (London, 1732), i.

Two other apparently substantial abridgements were published prior to this edition. Neither, however, appears to have been reprinted.


Willam Haller, The Elect Nation: The meaning and relevance of Foxe's Book of Martyrs (New York, 1963), p. 252;

Warren Wooden, John Foxe (Boston, 1983), p. 96.

Martin Madan, The Book of Martyrs (London, 1761).

Two separate listings of the first and second volumes: London: H. Trapp, [1776]. Electronic Short Title Catalogue t138684. Single printing of both volumes, London: H. Trapp, 1784. Electronic Short Title Catalogue n033448.


Willam Haller, The Elect Nation: The meaning and relevance of Foxe's Book of Martyrs (New York, 1963), pp. 251-3.


Warren Wooden, John Foxe (Boston, 1983), pp. 92-104.


Warren Wooden, John Foxe (Boston, 1983), pp. 92-104.

Daniel Woolf finds that 'the emotive as much as the intellectual experience became increasingly important to historians of the early modern period'.

Daniel Woolf, Reading History in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 104.

Haller's and Wooden's judgments undervalue what may be a deliberate effect in 'Foxe'.


Colin Haydon, Anti-Catholicism in Eighteenth Century England (Manchester/New York, 1993), pp. 28-9;

Gerald Newman, Rise of English Nationalism: A cultural history (New York, 1987)

Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation (New Haven/London, 1992).


“I have used 'Catholicism' and 'Popery,' 'Papist' and 'Catholic' as interchangeable.”

Colin Haydon, Anti-Catholicism in Eighteenth Century England (Manchester/New York, 1993), p. 1 nt 1, and 42.


John Wesley, Journals and Diaries, 20 vols. ed. W. Reginald Ward (Nashville, 1991) III: p. 168.

Also, quoting Martin Dunsford, anti-Methodists are described as 'idle disorderly persons of the lowest class, encouraged by the ignorant and bigotted of the higher rank'. Journals and Diaries, 20 vols. ed. W. Reginald Ward (Nashville, 1991) III: p. 403.

See also: Henry Rack, Reasonable Enthusiast (London, 1989), pp. 270-80; and

John Walsh, 'Methodism and the Mob', Society of Church History 8 (1977): pp. 213-27.


John Wesley, Journals and Diaries, 20 vols. ed. W. Reginald Ward (Nashville, 1991) III,

composite description: 'Papist'/gentlemen, p. 168; 'rabble-rout', p. 249; 'hired', various places, see pp. 13, 24; 'Protestants', p. 64; mob cry: 'Now hey for the Romans!', p. 336.


Haydon comments that 'parallels may be drawn between the ill treatment and perceptions of Catholics, Dissenters, and Methodist in Stuart and Georgian times.'

Colin Haydon, Anti-Catholicism in Eighteenth Century England (Manchester/New York, 1993), p. 248

They are not, however, interchangeable targets.


John Wesley, 'Acts and Monuments of the Christian Martyrs', The Christian Library, 50 vols. (1750. London: T. Blanshard, 1819), III: p. 262.


Haydon points to the uneasy alignments between Established Church and Dissenter in the face of perceived external and internal threat.

Colin Haydon, Anti-Catholicism in Eighteenth Century England (Manchester/New York, 1993), pp. 137-38, 161-2; 238-40.

John Foxe and the English Reformation, ed. David Loades (Aldershot, 1997); and John Foxe: An Historical Perspective, ed. David Loades (Aldershot, 1999), contain several related articles.

Thomas Bray's Papal Usurpation and Persecution (London, 1712), an addendum to Foxe, includes excerpts from the Oath accompanied by lengthy commentary on its history, intent, and necessity.


Matthew Taylor, Bloody Tribunal or An Antidote against Popery (London, 1773), p. iii.


Anonymous, The Book of Martyrs (London, 1764).


Thomas Bray, Papal Usurpation and Persecution (London, 1712), p. viii.


John Milner [F.W. Blagdon], The Book of Martyrs, or, a Christian Martyrology, 2 vol. (Liverpool, 1807), I: pp. vi-vii and viii-ix.

Information taken from Devorah Greenberg, 'Reflexive Foxe: The Book of Martyrs Transformed, 'Foxe' reinterpreted - sixteenth through twenty-first centuries', chapter five, 'Martyrological History and 'Things indifferent'', diss. Simon Fraser University, 2002.


This is an example of what Unlearning Racism calls the 'exceptionality' function, where individual representatives of a despised people are accepted exceptions to expectation.

Ricky Sherova-Marcuse, Unlearning Racism Workshop, Vancouver, B.C., August, 1989.


Nicholson applied the term 'Foxe's bastards' to redescribe what Haller called 'this thing called Foxe'.

Eirwen Nicholson, 'Eighteenth Century Foxe: Evidence for the Impact of the Acts and Monuments in the 'long' eighteenth century', John Foxe and the English Reformation, ed. David Loades (Aldershot, 1997), p. 149.

After her cogent observations on the motives behind dismissing the Book of Martyrs, her use of this deprecating sobriquet was surprising.


Brian Stock, Listening for the Text: On the Uses of the Past (Baltimore/London: John Hopkins, 1990), pp. 102-103 and 29.

Stock goes on to comment that 'this notion of semantic autonomy lies at the basis of all exegesis and hermeneutics'.


Brian Stock, Listening for the Text: On the Uses of the Past (Baltimore/London: John Hopkins, 1990), p. 109.


Steven Mullaney, 'Reforming Resistance: Class, Gender and Legitimacy in Foxe's Book of Martyrs' Print, Manuscript, and Performance: the changing relations of the media in early modern England. eds. Arthur F. Marotti and Michael D. Bristol (Columbus, 2000), pp. 235-51, quotation 239.


John Walsh, Colin Haydon and StephenTaylor, eds. The Church of England: 1689-1833: from Toleration to Tractarianism (Cambridge, 1993).


Anonymous, Select History (London, 1746);

Paul Wright, New and Complete Book of Martyrs (London, 1784) p. vi;

Martin Madan, The Book of Martyrs (London, 1760).

This is a model that continues in the twenty-first century as the British Academy John Foxe Project will produce first the last two books of Acts and Monuments and the earlier books will follow.


Thomas Mason, Book of Martyrs, or, the History of the Church (London, 1748), [I].


Paul Wright, New and Complete Book of Martyrs (London, 1784), p. iv.


Thomas Mason, Book of Martyrs, or, the History of the Church (London, 1748), p. 5.


Samuel Clark, 'Supplement to Fox's Acts and Monuments of the Christian Martyrs,' Christian Library, III: pp. 289-427.

See Colin Haydon, Anti-Catholicism in Eighteenth Century England (Manchester/New York, 1993), pp. 131-61 for the 'peur of 1745'; for popular sentiments, see pp. 131-61; and 'hidden Catholics' see pp. 9-13.


Elizabeth Phelan Tonna, The English Martyrology, 2 vol. (London, 1837) I: p. 62;

John Cumming, Fox's Book of Martyrs (London, 1844), 1;

Theodore Buckley, Foxe's Book of Martyrs, abridged from Milner's edition (London, [1880]), [i].

John Milner [F.W. Blagdon], The Book of Martyrs, or, a Christian Martyrology, 2 vol. (Liverpool, 1807).


John Miller, Religion in the Popular Prints, 1600-1832 (Cambridge, 1986), fig 88.


Paul Wright, New and Complete Book of Martyrs (London, 1784), p. iv.


John Milner [F.W. Blagdon], The Book of Martyrs, or, a Christian Martyrology, 2 vol. (Liverpool, 1807), I: pp. I: ii-iv; I: viii-ix.

Daniel Woolf observes that 'one might now incline to put a work like Foxe's Acts and Monuments in with Camden and Holinshed under 'history'; most seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century owners continued to keep Foxe, along with other ecclesiastical historians … under 'divinity,' thereby maintaining the long-standing division of histories into the two grand categories, sacred and profane.'

Daniel Woolf, Reading History in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 177.


Paul Wright, New and Complete Book of Martyrs (London, 1784), pp. iii and v.


Among the more significant insights of Acts and Monuments is Foxe's exposure of the construction of 'truth' and the invention of tradition. What may differentiate their understanding of the manufacture of truth from ours at the turn of this century, is that they believed that Truth existed and that they had found it. Milner's deliberate preservation of the narrative effect, the other editors' strategies for their purposeful editing of Foxe's text, were neither cynically nor ironically employed.

John Milner [F.W. Blagdon], The Book of Martyrs, or, a Christian Martyrology, 2 vol. (Liverpool, 1807), I: ii-iv.


Eirwen Nicholson, 'Eighteenth Century Foxe: Evidence for the Impact of the Acts and Monuments in the 'long' eighteenth century', John Foxe and the English Reformation, ed. David Loades (Aldershot, 1997), p. 152.


G.W. Keeton, Lord Chancellor Jeffreys and the Stuart Cause (London: MacDonald, 1965), pp. 305-6.

Charles James Fox's History of the early part of the reign of James the Second (1808) appears to support Keeton's claim. Fox treats Monmouth's and Argyle's risings and Jeffrey's persecution in context of his thesis that James II sought to institute, not popery, but absolutism. Fox comments that Argyle's stated 'heart-hatred of popery, prelacy, and all superstition' have 'something of violence in them', and observes that 'it must be remembered … that the opinion that the Pope is Antichrist was at that time general among all the zealous Protestants'. He concludes that Argyle also could not assume that an Episcopalian government appointee would understand the 'precise idea which Argyle affixed to the word Protestant' – situating the source of danger more in Canterbury than in Rome.

C. J. Fox, History of James the Second (London, 1808), pp. 221-2.


Paul Wright, New and Complete Book of Martyrs (London, 1784), p. v.


Anonymous [Ellis Hookes?], A Christian plea against Persecution London: J. Sowle, 1719.


Paul Wright's 'Foxe', by contrast, claims to contain Anglican examples 'displayed as they are in our homilies, articles and liturgy, those essential fundamental principles' of the English church.

Paul Wright, New and Complete Book of Martyrs (London, 1784), p. iv.


E.H. [Ellis Hookes], A Brief View of the Great Sufferings (London, 1719), p. 546.


Ellis Hookes, Spirit of the Martyrs Revived (1682. London, 1750), p. 250.


Ellis Hookes, Spirit of the Martyrs Revived (1682. London, 1750), p. 257.


John Bolles, A Brief Account of Persecutions in Boston and Conneticut (New London, 1758), title page.


John Bolles, A Brief Account of Persecutions in Boston and Conneticut (New London, 1758), pp. 9 and 11.


Clement Cotton, The Mirror of Martyrs in a short view (London, 1625), pp. 197-198.

'How should we rebel against our superiors, seeing we patiently suffer the wrongs offered us on all hands? … God forbid that such a fire kindled by men, should take vengeance of the contempt of the Doctrine of God.' p. 557.


Colin Haydon, Anti-Catholicism in Eighteenth Century England (Manchester/New York, 1993), p. 253

Information in this section is taken from Devorah Greenberg, 'Reflexive Foxe: The Book of Martyrs Transformed, 'Foxe' reinterpreted - sixteenth through twenty-first centuries', chapter four, 'Wesley's Foxe: In a Tradition of Learned Ministry'. diss. Simon Fraser University, 2002.


John Wesley, 'Acts and Monuments of the Christian Martyrs', The Christian Library, 50 vols. (1750. London: T. Blanshard, 1819), II: p. 25.


John Wesley, Journals and Diaries, 20 vols. ed. W. Reginald Ward (Nashville, 1991) III, p. 373.


Wesley included among the pre-Marian common men: Badby: I, p. 117; Browne: I, p. 195; Firth and Hewet: I, p. 347.

Of the Marian martyrs only Porter: I, p. 399; Testwood, Filmer, and Pearson: I, p. 401; Tomkins: II, p. 74; Hunter: II, p. 77; Haukes: II, p. 95; and White: II, p. 88 receive a titled section, each one is a fair representation of the story offered by John Foxe.

Hatches, Archer, Hawkins and Bond, Wrigham, Landsale and Silkeb accompany Mrs. Smith. The section on foreign martyrs not yet accounted for includes Luther, Voes and Esch, a variety of scattered nationals, and the histories of Merindol, Cabriers and of the Waldenseans. Christian Library, I: pp. 202-337.

John Wesley, 'Acts and Monuments of the Christian Martyrs', The Christian Library, 50 vols. (1750. London: T. Blanshard, 1819).


Thomas W. Hayes, 'Gerrard Winstanley and Foxe's Book of Martyrs,' Notes and Queries 2 (1977): pp. 209-12;

William Lamont, Godly Rule: Politics and Religion (Toronto: 1969), p. 33.


See the National Union Catalogue: Wesley, John, Christian Library, for a list of his selections.


See Wesley's journal entry for March 19, 1747 where he describes Elizabethan Puritans as 'venerable' yet concludes that they were weak. John Wesley, Journals and Diaries, 20 vols. ed. W. Reginald Ward (Nashville, 1991) III, p. 163.

For a valuable analysis of Wesley's connection to 'Puritans' and the appearance of dissent in the Christian Library see

Robert C. Monk, John Wesley: His Puritan Heritage (New York, 1966).

Monk finds a 'striking similarity' between Wesley and Puritans (where Puritan means 'practical application of the gospel'). Monk finds that Wesley was deeply dependent on Samuel Clarke for 'most of the lives he included in the Library', but that he also critically varied Clarke's text to give space to the 'most eminent men of the Church of England'.

Robert C. Monk, John Wesley: His Puritan Heritage (New York, 1966), p. 41; also pp. 49-53 and 54-9.


'We are talking about composite discursive communities, less about individual genius, or talent.'

Patrick Collinson, 'John Foxe and National Consciousness,' John Foxe and His World, eds. Christopher Highley and John N. King (Aldershot, Hants Eng/Burlington, Vt., 2002), p. 5.


Allen Megill, 'Grand Narrative and the Discipline of History,' New Philosopy of History, eds. Hans Kellner and Frank Ankersmit (Chicago, 1995), pp. 151-73, quotations 172 and 173.


Luisa Passerini, 'Transforming Biography: From the Claim of Objectivity to Intersubjective Plurality,' Rethinking History 4.3 (2000): p. 414.


Steven Mullaney, 'Reforming Resistance: Class, Gender and Legitimacy in Foxe's Book of Martyrs', Print, Manuscript, and Performance: the changing relations of the media in early modern England. eds. Arthur F. Marotti and Michael D. Bristol (Columbus, 2000), p, 242.

Type a keyword and then restrict it to a particular edition using the dropdown menu. You can search for single words or phrases. When searching for single words, the search engine automatically imposes a wildcard at the end of the keyword in order to retrieve both whole and part words. For example, a search for "queen" will retrieve "queen", "queene" and "queenes" etc.
Humanities Research Institute  *  HRI Online  *  Feedback
Version 2.0 © 2011 The University of Sheffield