Emeritus Professors

Professor John Walter

Staff positionProfessor

John Walter I read history at the University of Cambridge. After a period as a Thouron scholar at the University of Pennsylvania where I took an MA in American History, I returned to Cambridge, where I held the Eileen Power Memorial Studentship in Social and Economic History, and undertook doctoral research on radical movements in the English Revolution and the tradition of popular protest in early modern England. I was appointed as Lecturer in History in 1976 and Professor in 2000. I research and publish in the field of early modern British history. My book on crowd actions in the English Revolution, Understanding Popular Violence in the English Revolution, completed with an award under the British Academy Humanities Research Board scheme, was awarded the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield Prize. In 2017, I was honoured to be presented with a festschrift edited by Michael J. Braddick & Phil Withington, Popular Culture And Political Agency in Early Modern England and Ireland: Essays in Honour of John Walter (Woodbridge, The Boydell Press, 2017).

Current research


Arising from my work on the history of food, my next book will be on the Tichborne Dole and its changing meaning from its medieval inception to the present day. Apparently first noted in the painting of 1672, myth claims the dole to have originated in a 12th century bequest which carried a curse on the Tichborne family, if ever the family failed to distribute the dole.  This curse which threatened no male heirs becomes entangled in the nineteenth century with the cause célèbre of the Tichborne Claimant. The book traces the related fortunes of family and Dole up to the present day, the changing meanings and representations of the Dole (including in one of the first British early silent films), and the way it comes to be understood, especially after World War II, to stand for a particular vision of Englishness.

Research interests

My central research interest is popular political culture in early modern England. This is research which has focused on crowd actions but which seeks to integrate the various branches of historical research social, economic, political and cultural. In this work I endeavour to bring together intensive archival research, often with a micro—historical focus, with theoretical interests in the nature of political society, the nature of early modern state and society, and the spaces therein for the exercise of popular political agency. This has resulted both in a series of articles, some of which have been collected in my 2006 Crowds and Popular Politics as well as in my 1999 monograph Understanding Popular Violence. My most recent work in this field seeks to re-integrate the sources and methodologies of social and cultural history employed in a social history of politics with a re-invigorated political history. Within this work, I am especially interested to think imaginatively about the forms and focus that political action might take beyond the politics of the crowd: hence my currents research interests extend to the politics of food and of gesture, on which I am currently publishing.

Supervision Interests

  • Early modern British history (political, social, religious, cultural, economic)
  • Early modern political culture that seek to integrate social or cultural history with political history

Previous supervision topics include:

  • Gender and space in early modern England
  • The ‘well-affected’ and the ‘country’: politics and religion in English provincial society c. 1640 — c. 1654
  • A community study of a pre-industrial town: Coggeshall in Essex c. 1500 — c.1750
  • The rural middling sort in an eighteenth-century Essex village: Great Tey c.1660 — 1830
  • Maritime trade and the port of Maldon c. 1568 — c. 1668
  • The freedom of Sudbury in the eighteenth century
  • Law, patronage and social mobility in early modern England
  • The contribution of the English clergy to county society in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century 
  • Urban politics and religion in the English revolution
  • The politics of the parish and ‘scandalous ministers’ in the English revolution
  • Military, masculinity & agency in the English civil wars
  • Radicals & the politics of gesture in the English Revolution



  • 'Ann Carter (d. 1629)', in Carole Levin, Anna Riehl Bertolet & Jo Eldridge Carney, eds., A Biographical Encyclopedia of Early Modern Englishwomen: Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts (Abingdon & New York, Routledge), pp. 228-9.
  • 'Authority and Protest', in Keith Wrightson, ed., A Social History of England 1500-1750 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 221-241.
  • 'The public sphere and the parish pump: finding politics in the churchwardens' accounts, 1639-1643', in Valerie Hitchman & Andrew Foster, eds., Views from the Parish: Churchwardens' Accounts c.1500-c.1800 (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2015), pp. 157-77.
  • 'Kissing cousins? Social history/Political history before and after the Revisionist moment', Huntingdon Library Quarterly, 78/4 2015), 703-22
  • ‘The politics of protest in seventeenth-century England’, in Michael T. Davis, ed.,  Crowd Actions in Britain and France from the Middle Ages to the Modern World (London:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 58–79.
  • 'Crowds and popular politics in the English Revolution', in Michael J. Braddick, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the English Revolution (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2015; ebook, 2014), pp. 330–346.
  • 'Body politics in the English Revolution', in Stephen Taylor & Grant Tapsell, eds., The Nature of the English Revolution Revisited (Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2013), pp. 81-102.
  • 'Performative violence and the politics of violence in the 1641 depositions', in Micheál Ó Siochrú & Jane Ohhlmeyer, eds., Ireland 1641: Contexts and Reactions (Manchester:  Manchester University Press, 2013), pp. 134-52.
  • (with Steve Hindle & Alexandra Shepard) 'The making and remaking of early modern English social history', in Steve Hindle, Alexandra Shepard & John Walter, eds., Remaking English Society:  Social Relations and Social Change in Early Modern England (Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2013), pp.1-40.
  • 'Gesturing at authority: deciphering the gestural code of early modern England’, in Michael J.  Braddick, ed., The Politics of Gesture: Historical Perspectives (Past and Present, Supplement, 4, 2009), pp. 96-127. (view online).
  • ‘"The pooreman’s joy and the gentleman’s plague": a Lincolnshire libel and the politics of sedition in early modern England’, Past & Present 203 (2009), pp. 29-67 (view online)
  • 'Politicising the popular? The 'tradition of riot' and popular political culture in the English Revolution', in Nicholas Tyacke, ed., The English Revolution c. 1590-1720: Politics, Religion and Communities (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2007), pp. 95-110.
  • 'Faces in the crowd: gender and age in the early modern crowd', in Helen Berry & Elizabeth Foyster, eds., The Family in Early Modern England (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 96-125
  • "Affronts & Insolencies": The Voices of Radwinter and Popular Opposition to Laudianism’, English Historical Review, CXXII, no. 495 (2007), pp. 35-60.
  • Comment: From Richmondshire to the early modern English State', in D. Bates & K. Kondo, eds., Migration and Identity in British History: Proceedings of the Fifth Anglo-Japanese Conference of Historians (Tokyo, 2006), pp. 44-45.
  • 'La société anglaise du XVIIe siècle: structure sociale et changement social', in H. Fréchet, ed., Questions D’Histoire : Les Sociétés Anglaise, Espagnole et Française au XV11e Siècle (Editions Du Temps : Nantes, 2006), pp. 13-38.
  • 'The English People and the English Revolution Revisited', History Workshop Journal, vol. 61 (2006), pp. 171-82 (download).
  • Carter [formerly Barrington], Ann (d. 1629); Drake, Richard (1609–1681); Farnham, Richard (d. 1642); Josselin, Ralph (1617–1683); Kett, Robert (c.1492–1549); Lucas, John, first Baron Lucas of Shenfield (1606–1671); Nettles, Stephen (fl. 1595–1647); Powell, Edward [called Anderson of the Fens] (bap. 1608, d. in or after 1642); Reynolds, John [alias Captain Pouch] (d. 1607); Savage [née Darcy], Elizabeth, suo jure Countess Rivers (1581–1651); Stalham, John (d. 1677); Steer, Bartholomew (bap. 1568, d. 1597?); Tichborne, Sir Henry, third baronet (bap. 1624, d. 1689); Williams, John [alias Skimmington] (fl. 1631–1637), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)
  • 'Popular Iconoclasm and the Politics of the Parish in Eastern England, 1640-1642', The Historical Journal, vol. 47, no. 2 (2004), pp. 261-290.
  • '"Abolishing Superstition with Sedition?" The Politics of Popular Iconoclasm in England 1640-1642', Past and Present, vol. 183 (2004), pp. 79-123.
  • 'Confessional politics in pre-civil war Essex: prayer books, profanations, and petitions', The Historical Journal, vol. 44, no. 3 (2001), pp. 677-701.
  • 'Public transcripts, popular agency and the politics of subsistence in early modern England', in Negotiating Power in Early Modern Society, eds Michael  J. Braddick and John Walter (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 149-65.
  • (With Michael J. Braddick), 'Introduction. Grids of power: order, hierarchy and subordination in early modern society', In Negotiating Power in Early Modern Society, eds Michael J. Braddick and John Walter (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 1-42.
  • 'English Kett's Rebellion', In The Encyclopedia of Political Revolutions, ed. Jack A. Goldstone (Washington, D.C., Congressional Quarterly Books, 1999), pp. 155-6.
  • 'Changement agraire et disparition de la paysannerie en Angleterre 1500-1800', in La Terre Et Les Paysans En France Et En Grande-Bretagne De 1600 Á 1800, ed. H. Fréchet (Paris, Editions du Temps, 1998), pp. 137-67.
  • (With John Morrill), 'Order and disorder in the English Revolution', In Order and Disorder in Early Modern England, eds A. J. Fletcher and J. Stevenson, pp. 137-65, (Cambrige, Cambridge University Press, 1987), reprinted in The Nature of the English Revolution, ed. J. Morrill (London, Longman, 1993), pp. 359-91 and The English Civil War, eds. R. Cust and A. Hughes (London, Arnold, 1997), pp. 310-40.
  • 'Anti-popery and the Stour Valley riots of 1642', In Religious Dissent in East Anglia III, ed. David Chadd (Norwich, Centre of East Anglian Studies, University of East Anglia, 1996), pp. 121-40.
  • 'The commons and their mental worlds', In The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart Britain, ed. J. Morrill (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 191-218.
  • 'Crown and crowd : popular culture and popular protest in early modern England (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries)', in Sotsial'naia istoriia: problemy sinteza, ed. L. Repina (Moscow, General Historical Institute, Russia Academy of Sciences, 1994), pp. 235-48.
  • 'Subsistence strategies, social economy and the politics of subsistence in early modern England', in Just a Sack of Potatoes? Crisis Experiences in European Societies, Past and Present, ed. A. Hakkinen (Helsinki, Societas Historica Finlandiae, 1992), pp. 53-85.
  • 'The impact of society: a world turned upside down', In The impact of the English Civil War, ed. J. Morrill (London, History Today Books, 1991), pp. 104-22.
  • 'The social economy of dearth in early modern England', In Famine, Disease, and the Social Order in Early Modern Society, eds. John Walter and Roger Schofield (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 75-128.
  • (With Roger Schofield), 'Famine, disease and crisis mortality in early modern society', in Famine, Disease, and the Social Order in Early Modern Society, eds. John Walter and Roger Schofield (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 1-73.
  • 'The economy of famine in early modern England', Bulletin for the Society for the Social History of Medicine, vol. 40 (1987), pp. 7-10.
  • 'The decline of crisis mortality: what part did the poor law play', Bulletin for the Society for the Social History of Medicine, vol. 38 (1986), pp. 60-4.
  • 'A "Rising of the People"? The Oxfordshire Rising of 1596', Past and Present, no. 107 (1985), pp. 90-143.
  • (With Keith Wrightson), 'Dearth and the social order in early modern England', Past and Present, vol. 71 (1976), pp. 22-42, reprinted in Rebellion, Popular Protest and the Social Order in Early Modern England, ed. Paul Slack (Cambridge, Past & Present Publications, Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 108-28.
  • 'The geography of food riots, 1585-1649', In An Atlas of Rural Protest in Britain 1548-1900, ed. A. Charlesworth, (London, Croom Helms, 1983), pp. 72-80.
  • 'Grain riots and popular attitudes to the law: Maldon and the crisis of 1629', in An Ungovernable People: The English and their Law in the 17th and 18th Centuries, eds. John Brewer and John Styles, (London and USA, Hutchinson and Rutgers, 1980), pp. 47-84.

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