Who are the sixteenth century scholars that I intend to study? What are the limitations of the project? What is the purpose? These are all good questions and I don’t yet have a full answer to all of them. I will, for the most part, limit my researches to scholars in the British Isles (and most likely largely to England). My main focus is on historians or at least to those scholars who studied and wrote about their past in some way. In the sixteenth century there was no such thing as a professional historian, even the term antiquarian is loaded and complicated. So, as a starting point, I will focus on those people with some form of training (usually university) who published significantly about the past. Another limitation is, of course, that these scholars predominantly studied and published in the sixteenth century – although there may well be some leeway here.
I will not stick just to the big names – Raphael Holinshed, John Foxe, Polydore Virgil – although they will of course play their role. I will likely limit the role of playwrights at least at the beginning – William Shakespeare, Anthony Munday, Christopher Marlowe – although they often wrote of history theirs was a very different performance of it. That is a route that I would like to take once the ‘academic’ historians have received fair attention.
As far as content is concerned I initially plan to include biographies, short notes about works of history produced in the sixteenth century and a few mini-articles describing the context and background to the writing of history in this period. These will initially draw out from my PhD research – for this is where my comfort zone begins and the place from which I need to re-equate myself with as it has been two years since I have studied the topic in depth. However, I have already begun other research in the area and that process will become a significant part of my future posting.
The purpose behind this research is in a large part because I find it interesting but there are more specific goals in mind. My initial plan is to produce some articles for publication but I also want to aim toward the writing of my first book. This will not be a re-production of my PhD thesis (which I’ll talk a little more about in my next post) but a wider study of scholars who studied and wrote history in the sixteenth century. Whether or not this study focuses on histories which relate to the reformation or whether I branch out to political, local, foreign and legal histories is something that I have not yet quite decided.