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‘Now fearing neither friend nor foe,/ To the worldes viewe these verses goe’: mapping libel performance in early-modern Devon

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Medieval English Theatre
Volume36
Number of pages34
Pages (from-to)70-103
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Libel — the spreading of a message in order to defame a person — was a common offence in the provincial communities of early-modern England. The surviving records of these libels, which were tried in the court of Star Chamber, have been studied by historians for evidence of popular political engagement and levels of literacy; however, by plotting examples of libel from the Star Chamber records for the county of Devon onto a map of the contemporary landscape, it becomes clear that these libels should be seen as public performances devised by and enacted in provincial communities. Furthermore, mapping libels shows that these communities had an acute awareness of the potential that precise locations held for targeted, yet widespread dissemination. This article interprets libels in relation to the deliberately public and socially significant spaces of roads, boundaries and buildings in which they were performed and discusses the outcomes of digitally mapping a small sample of cases.