Re-writing History in the capital: John Foxe and his scholarly network



In late 1559, John Foxe returned from exile in Basel and took up residence once again in London. Foxe would spend much of the next twenty-years of his life writing, compiling, and re-editing, his magnum opus, the Acts and Monuments (better known now as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs). How did location help him in this endeavour? It is easy enough to argue that residence in London was crucial, if for no other reason than to see the text through the printing-press. There are many other reasons, however, equally as crucial. London, as a centre for communication, the heart of government and commerce, as well as religion, offered easy access to England’s most prominent citizens. Such access was vital for receiving first-hand witness information on recent events, especially on the martyrdom of various protestants under Queen Mary. My interest here though is how London enabled Foxe to make extensive use of written source material and take part in a scholarly nexus of scholars, printers, clerics, and antiquarians. Not only did London offer easy access to European and English publications, access to and discussion with various scholars, but it was also the means for Foxe to gain access to many historical manuscripts, that had, until then, been scattered across the country (and abroad) following the 1530s dissolution of the monasteries. During the 1560s, especially, London became England’s hub for scholarship, saving and mythologizing of its historical manuscript heritage, and for State propaganda activities. The story of John Foxe in London is, therefore, part of that story and part of the wider story of England’s Reformation.