Silence to the proclamation!

Event Date: 
10 Mar 2020

A half-day, interdisciplinary symposium upon public performances of authority in early modern England

Jesus College, Oxford


What did it mean to make a proclamation in early modern England? What performance was required from a Justice of the Peace to arrest their neighbour? And how did popular drama’s use of common processes of authority like these contribute to or alter their meaning? 

This symposium aims to bring together researchers from English, history, political thought and performance studies, in order to probe some of these questions. It builds from recent currents in early modern history, considering the lived experience of government, and the state as social actor, and from the increased interest in the modalities of performance in early modern literary studies. It hopes to foster discussion across disciplinary boundaries, to explore different ways of approaching the ways that authority was performed in ordinary life, and to offer a new approach to social and legal history. 


The symposium’s structure is distinctively interdisciplinary, and designed to provoke conversation between researchers. It will begin with a pair of keynote presentations, by Dr Clare Egan (English, Lancaster) and Dr Hillary Taylor (History, Jesus College Cambridge). There will then be a panel of three to four speakers from a variety of disciplines. The symposium will culminate in a practice as research workshop led by History DPhil Lucy Clarke, in which actors will experiment with staging proclamations and arrests, and in which attendees are encouraged to participate in discussion.


Applications are open for three or four 15-20 minute papers. We encourage graduate students and ECRs in particular to apply, irrespective of faculty. Please send abstracts of 200 words and a short (50-word) biography to by February 14th 2020.


Possible paper topics could include: 

  • the use of legal process in every day life  
  • arrests, searches and proclamations as performance
  • performance-based approaches to social and legal history 
  • the performativity of government and the ‘theatre of state’
  • riot and disorder on-stage and off
  • state magic and representing oneself as a representative of the Crown
  • libel and rescue as challenges to performed authority 


This event will be free to attend, and is generously funded by the Oxford Centre for Early Modern Studies. Registration will open in February. 


Submission date for papers: 
14 Feb 2020