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How did how ordinary people respond to the challenges they faced in an era of rapid social, political and economic change? This is the question at the heart of my research agenda, but the approaches that I have adopted to answer it have included a wide variety of different methods and have ranged across several centuries of English history.

My current research focuses on the pratice of petitioning, one of the most common ways for people without official political power to push the authorities to act. This project is funded by grants from the AHRC and the Economic History Society, which has enabled me to draw on thousands of surviving petitions to local and central government from c.1570 to c.1800. It shows how these written requests and complaints became a crucial mode of communication between the ‘rulers’ and the ‘ruled’. People at all levels of society – from noblemen to paupers – used petitions to make their voices heard.

In my other research, I have explored many more facets of early modern history, as outlined below. Although some of this work is still on-going, many of the results can be found in the articles, chapter and book listed under my publications.


Research interests

My research interests span a variety of aspects of England, c.1550-1750, including:

  • petitions and supplications

  • writing practices among middling and labouring people

  • the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution of 1688

  • charity, welfare and the poor law

  • religious responses to economic issues

  • craft guilds and local government

  • land management and common resources

  • protest, riot and rebellion

  • ballads, pamphlets and other printed ‘popular culture’



Articles and chapters


Blog Posts


    I am the Principal Investigator on ‘The Power of Petitioning in Seventeenth-Century England’ (2019-20), with Jason Peacey of UCL and Sharon Howard of Birkbeck. This project is primarily funded by an AHRC Research Grant, AH/S0001654/1. It has also been supported by two small grants from the Economic History Society in 2014-15 and 2019-20.

    Brodie Waddell

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