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Response to Review of England’s Culture Wars: Puritan Reformation and its Enemies in the Interregnum, 1649-1660

I would like to thank Kirsteen MacKenzie for her careful reading, detailed coverage, and kind words. I would like merely to tweak a couple of the points she makes in summarising my argument. Rather than concluding that ‘the reformers failed in their goals’ on regulation of the Sabbath, I would argue that they were pursuing an ambitious range of objectives, with mixed results. They achieved a considerable measure of success in suppressing travel, work, and outdoor sports and dancing, and in keeping alehouses closed; they enjoyed far less success in persuading the population to devote the entire Sabbath to religious activities. Church attendance was very variable (especially in urban communities) now that attendance at parish church services was no longer a legal requirement. On sexual regulation, I would note that concerns over sex outside marriage were driven by both moral and financial considerations rather than either/or (Review, p.3). And many urban magistrates, both in London and provincial centres, were already active on this front well before 1640, rather than leaving such matters to the ecclesiastical courts. Finally on alehouse regulation, I would amend ‘patchy and ineffective’ (Review, p.3) to ‘patchy rather than ineffective’. That might stand as a central argument of the book: that instead of trying to reach a blanket verdict on success or failure, we should see interregnum reformation in terms of a patchwork, with plenty of examples of both. With the sway of central government still limited, enforcement remained heavily reliant on the values of local magistrates, their willingness to co-operate with the new regimes, and how far the reformers’ objectives on a particular issue were shared by social groups outside the puritans’ own ranks.