Early Modern England

Society, Culture and Everyday Life, 1500-1700

Explore the lived experiences of Early Modern English society, from ordinary people to prominent families.

This collection of primary sources looks at two centuries of everyday, political, religious, working, trading and administrative life in England during this pivotal epoch.

Documents cover an array of topics relating to England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with a significant focus on the lives of ‘everyday’ people. Volumes of correspondence from more prominent families look at governance, politics, monarchy, relations between landowners and tenants, war, politics and relations with England’s neighbours.

The materials offer in-depth case studies of different regions in England from the South East to the Scottish Borders allowing for comparison of experience across the country.

Key Data

Period Covered

  • 1500 - 1700


  • Quarter Session Papers reveal the lives of ‘ordinary’ people alongside the structure of justice
  • Papers of Anthony Bacon, private secretary to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, provide insights into continental networks
  • Commonplace books detail the thoughts and organisation of Early Modern minds
  • Objects show the material culture of the age
  • Wills and inventories from Stratford-upon-Avon trace the possessions of everyday people
  • Annotated printed books uncover people’s interactions with key texts

Source Archives

  • The British Library
  • Canterbury Cathedral Archives
  • Lambeth Palace Library
  • London Metropolitan Archives
  • The National Archives, UK
  • The Newberry Library
  • Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Material Types

  • Court records
  • Annotated books
  • Governance records
  • Commonplace books
  • Family papers and correspondence
  • Wills and inventories
  • Tax records
  • Trade records
  • Administrative records
  • Diaries

Editorial Board

  • Robert Bearman, Former Head Archivist, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • Robert Bucholz, Loyola University, Chicago
  • Henry French, University of Exeter
  • Jonathan Gibson, Open University
  • Mark Hailwood, University of Bristol
  • Charmian Mansell, University of Cambridge
  • Catherine Richardson, University of Kent
  • Danae Tankard, University of Chichester

Key Themes

  • Everyday life
  • Religion
  • Politics and monarchy
  • Family life
  • Employment
  • Law and order
  • Science and education
  • Foreign affairs
  • Women’s history
  • Trade and economics
  • Travel
  • Land and property 
  • Health

Key Features

  • Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) technology feature on material culture
  • 360 views of objects