The Murder of Mr. Grebell


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Madness and Civility in an English Town

Paul Kléber Monod

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On a winter night in 1743, a local magistrate was stabbed to death in the churchyard of Rye by an angry butcher. Why did this gruesome crime happen? What does it reveal about the political, economic, and cultural patterns that existed in this small English port town?

To answer these questions, this fascinating book takes us back to the mid-sixteenth century, when religious and social tensions began to fragment the quiet town of Rye and led to witch hunts, riots, and violent political confrontations. Paul Monod examines events over the course of the next two centuries, tracing the town’s transition as it moved from narrowly focused Reformation norms to the more expansive ideas of the emerging commercial society. In the process, relations among the town’s inhabitants were fundamentally altered. The history of Rye mirrored that of the whole nation, and it gives us an intriguing new perspective on England in the early modern period.

Paul Kléber Monod is professor of history at Middlebury College and author of The Power of Kings: Monarchy and Religion in Europe, 1589–1715, published by Yale University Press.

“Monod skillfully explores the historical background to a sensational murder in Rye. His book provides a brilliant illumination of small-town life during England’s 18th-century ‘urban renaissance.’”—David Underdown, Yale University

"A highly original and fluently written piece of microhistory. Monod has combined a number of historical interests that will make this book appealing to students of urban history, historiography, and early modern British history."—Jonathan Barry, University of Exeter

"Both a clever, meticulous and highly-readable investigation of an ancient, local crime, and an adroit analysis of the social, political and religious dynamics of early modern England.”—Linda Colley, Princeton University

“A tour-de-force. Much more than a micro-history, this book is a total history of a community that was at once distinctive and yet also representative of its changing times. Rye becomes a prism through which Monod contemplates the vast political, economic, and cultural changes of the nation as a whole. The thematic range of the book and the erudition it builds on are vast, even astonishing.”—Vic Gatrell, Caius College, Cambridge University

"Paul Kléber Monod successfully employs this colorful episode of civic marketing to illuminate the shifting historical, religious, and most of all political currents of seventeenth and eighteenth-century England. . . . Given the rich narrative of Monod supplies, the crime and its accompanying trial provide a strategic window into the socially seismic changes ocurring in the economic and political heirarchy not only of Rye, but of neighboring English towns as well."—Joel Peter Eigen, American Historical Review

“Monod embarks on a remarkable voyage of historical detection and recreation.”—Jerry Brotton, BBC History Magazine (Book of the Month in BBC History Magazine)

“Monod has served up a lively, detailed examination of affairs in a small, provincial town. . . . Yale University Press, the most sterling of publishers, has produced a beautifully produced book printed on alabaster-like paper in a stylish Caslon font. It delights the eye and ravishes the touch. . . . Other publishers please copy.”—Robert Stewart, Spectator

“A fascinating portrait . . . beautifully crafted, highly evocative.”—John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph

“This absorbing, satisfyingly detailed book demonstrates how the crafts of the historian and the detective novelist can and should overlap.”—The Church Times

“The Murder of Mr Grebell is clever device to record the troubled history of that distinctive Cinque Port in East Sussex.”—The Times

“Uniquely valuable as an agent of historical research . . . also an interesting essay on how national politics becomes refracted through local politics. . . . [Monod has] recreated an historical period in true and authentic detail.”—Peter Ackroyd, Times (London)

“Worth reading for its excellent analysis of small-town politics . . . [a] beautifully produced and well-illustrated book.”—James Sharpe, Times Literary Supplement

"This highly readable study . . . offers a compelling case for the valuable contribution microhistories make to our understanding of early modern history."—Rachel Ramsey, Sixteenth Century Journal

ISBN: 9780300099850
Publication Date: December 11, 2003
306 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
12 b/w illus. + 1 map
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Monarchy and Religion in Europe 1589-1715

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