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Scribbles and Bits: Reader Marks and the Depiction of Queens in Printed English Histories, 1480-1661

Andrea Nichols, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Building from the recent micro and macro-studies of texts, genres, and readers in literary criticism, history of the book and print culture, and queenship studies, this study maps how early modern English histories printed between 1480-1661 were (re)created and read. Textual analysis and cultural context are used to illuminate the themes and impacts on the narrative and readers found in a corpus of 153 printed English histories and over a dozen commonplace books filled with early modern readers’ notes.Chapters 1-3 delve into reading, owning, and availability of English histories, along with likely audience, evidence of reader usage in markings and commonplace books, and author methodologies in crafting the narratives. Building upon that foundation, Chapters 4-5 focus on narrative change over time and reader interaction with passages discussing queens regnant Mary and Elizabeth Tudor, who ruled England from 1553-1603, during which many English histories were created or expanded. The narrative nuances are significant given the religious and political differences between Catholic Mary and Elizabeth, who re-established Anglican Protestantism. Chapter 6 narrows the focus down to one reader, a late eighteenth-century man named Adnett Garrett, and his response to Sir Richard Baker’s Chronicle of the Kings of England (London, 1653), formed largely from earlier sixteenth-century histories. Garrett’s commentary illuminates the longevity of early modern English histories and the impact of popular culture on historical interpretation.This study merges the fields of English history, marginalia, and queenship to answer long-standing questions, such as readers’ range of usage and interpretation of the texts, which titles readers annotated the most, common versus exceptional annotation habits, and the importance of queens in historical narratives. This research also provides context for a genre often mined without context for quotes or ignored as significant by queenship studies, opening up avenues of further cross-disciplinary pollination. Together, this dissertation proves the pervasiveness, popularity, and importance of English history in politics and culture.

Subject Area

European history|Womens studies|Linguistics

Recommended Citation

Nichols, Andrea, "Scribbles and Bits: Reader Marks and the Depiction of Queens in Printed English Histories, 1480-1661" (2021). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI28489722.