Sir Keith Thomas is one of the most innovative and influential of English historians, and a scholar of unusual range. These essays, presented to him on his retirement as President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, concentrate on one of the broad themes illuminated by his work - changing notions of civility in the past. From the sixteenth century onwards, civility was a term applied to modes of behaviour as well as to cultural and civic attributes. Its influence extended from styles of language and sexual mores to funeral ceremonies and commercial morality. It was used to distinguish the civil from the barbarous and the English from the Irish and Welsh, and to banish superstition and justify imperialism. The contributors - distinguished historians who have been Keith Thomas's pupils - illustrate the many implications of civility in the early modern period and its shifts of meaning down to the twentieth century.
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