A Study of the Vanist Sect in the English Revolution--Early 1659

Author: Andrew Herpich

Herpich, Andrew, 2023 A Study of the Vanist Sect in the English Revolution--Early 1659, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This dissertation is a chronological set of tightly contextualised close readings of writings a group of people with close ties to government produced in the first six months of 1659. The inherent instability and complexity of this pivotal year has inclined previous scholarship to pass it over as merely transitional. Concentrating on a defined group of people provides a consistent focal point amid the rapidly changing circumstances. Proceeding chronologically rather than thematically avoids either prematurely reaching for significance (typically located in the restoration of the monarchy) or becoming lost in the dynamic exchange between events and the writings which both comment upon and provoke them. Richard Baxter’s influential retrospective analysis of the mid-century sectarian scene lists the Vanists first and foremost. Yet they are the only one of his five listed sects to have eluded dedicated study. While no independent evidence corroborates the existence of a sect by this name, there is plenty of evidence of an effervescent spiritual community that looked to Sir Henry and Lady Frances Vane as religious leaders. In order to comprehend the phenomenon of ‘Vanist’ it is necessary to interrogate both Baxter's invention of the category and its embodiment in the activities of the people to whom it has been applied. Drawing on fresh approaches to reading antique Christian heresiologies as well as recent investigations of social networks within the seventeenth-century sectarian milieu, my methodology encourages a dual perspective that allows a sect to be both real and chimeric.

Keywords: English Revolution, sect, Vanists, Ranters, Quakers, Behmenists, Seekers, radical religion, politics, 1659, print culture, pamphlet, network, constellation, heresiology, heresiography, Henry Vane, Richard Baxter, William Prynne, James Harrington, Henry Neville, John Rogers, Henry Stubbe

Subject: Theology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2023
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Robert Phiddian