Civility and Incivility in Early Modern Britain, 1500-1700

Event Details

  • Event date: 28/06/2019
  • Venue: Oriel College, Oxford
  • CFP Deadline: 01/04/2019

Recent years have seen an increased scholarly interest in early modern ideas about civility. Although often associated with urbanity, gentility, or refinement, this conference will explore ideas of civility more broadly, asking how the limits of acceptable behaviour and discourse were defined, enforced, and negotiated in early modern Britain. The meaning of civility in post-Reformation Britain was both contested and complex. Religious change, developments in print, and social and political upheaval all served at various points to intensify ideological division and public disagreement. But contemporaries also worried about the effects of heated, vitriolic debate, and about how to ensure that difference did not tear apart the vinculum societatis (“bond of society”). Notions of civility could be both a source of, and a solution to, these conflicts – a form of tolerance or a tool of exclusion. They could place people, groups, and ideas beyond the bounds of acceptability, but also provide a principle for counteracting fissure in society and ensuring peaceful co-existence.


Participants are encouraged to interrogate the different ways that historians might think about the dynamic relationship between civility and incivility between 1500 and 1700. Submissions are invited on all aspects of political, social, religious, or intellectual history, and interdisciplinary contributions are likewise encouraged. Proposals for twenty-minute papers are encouraged from graduate students, early career researchers, and established scholars. Papers might address but are not limited to:

  • Inclusion and exclusion
  • Tolerance and intolerance
  • Morality and immorality
  • Marginalisation and subversion
  • The politics of moderation
  • Politeness and codes of conduct
  • Polemic and invective
  • Censorship and free speech
  • Crime and punishment


Keynote addresses will be given by Dr Teresa Bejan (University of Oxford) and one other. More details can be found on the conference website:


Please send a one-page CV, a title, and an abstract of c.350 words to