If I Lose Mine Honor, I Lose Myself: Honour among the Early Modern English Elite

If I Lose Mine Honor, I Lose Myself: Honour among the Early Modern English Elite

by Courtney Thomas


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Moving beyond the preoccupation of honour and its associations with violence and sexual reputation, Courtney Thomas offers an intriguing investigation of honour's social meanings amongst early modern elites in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.

If I Lose Mine Honour I Lose Myself reveals honour's complex role as a representational strategy amongst the aristocracy. Thomas' erudite and detailed investigation of multi-generational family papers as well as legal records and prescriptive sources develops a fuller picture of how the concept of honour was employed, often in contradictory ways in daily life. Whether considering economic matters, marriage arrangements, supervision of servants, household management, mediation, or political engagement, Thomas argues that while honour was invoked as a structuring principle of social life its meanings were diffuse and varied. Paradoxically, it is the malleability of honour that made it such an enduring social value with very real meaning for early modern men and women.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781487501228
Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Publication date: 07/31/2017
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Courtney Erin Thomas received her PhD in history and renaissance studies from Yale University. She has previously taught at both Yale University and MacEwan University.

Table of Contents



Brief Notes

Introduction — Approaching Honor

Chapter One — Men and Honor

Chapter Two — Women and Honor

Chapter Three — Honor, Local Reputation, and the Household

Chapter Four — Honor and the Family

Conclusion — The Importance of Honor


What People are Saying About This

Amanda Herbert

"This book offers a valuable reconsideration and reexamination of early modern honour. As Thomas proves, although honour was a slippery and changeable concept in the early modern period, it was nonetheless critical to the elite women and men who sought to understand and embody it. If we are to better understand the lives and experiences of early modern people, we must consider honour as both practice and ideology. Thomas employs a wide and revealing range of early modern sources, from personal correspondence to philosophical treatises, and from commonplace books to suits from the Court of Chivalry, demonstrating not only a range and depth of scholarship, but a lively and perceptive creativity. Thomas' analyses of femininity and masculinity are especially astute, offering a much-needed explanation of the ways that honour influenced constructions of early modern gender identity."

Brendan Kane

"Thomas's book sheds fresh light on honor culture: a vitally important and yet still understudied subject in early modern English, and more generally European, history. It takes seriously the notion that honor was a social virtue, something that helped guide and give meaning to individual and collective action, and details the peacekeeping and community-maintaining aspects of honor culture and the overlapping honor responsibilities of men and women. The study also makes a major methodological intervention: the case for reading mentalities through family papers is powerfully made and expertly executed and, as such, may serve as a model for future studies. Finally, it also advances our theoretical conception of honor and honor culture by means of a lucid and systematic analysis across disciplines of the specialist literature on the concept. Much more than a crucial study of English elite culture, "If I lose mine honour" is an important intervention in early modern European cultural history."

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