This volume provides a study of the 16th-century Elizabethan text, Holinshed's "Chronicles" - a history of England, Scotland and Ireland which has traditionally been read as the source material for many of Shakespeare's plays or as an archaic form of history-writing. In this book, Annabel Patterson insists that the chronicles be read in their own right as an important and inventive cultural history. Although they are known by the name of Raphael Holinshed, editor and major compiler of the 1577 edition, the chronicles were the work of a group - a collaboration between antiquarians, clergymen, members of parliament, poets, publishers and booksellers. Through a detailed reading, Patterson argues that the chronicles convey insights into the way the Elizabethan middle-class understood their society. Responding to the crisis of disunity which resulted from the Reformation, the authors of the chronicles embodied and encouraged an ideal of justice, what we would now call liberalism, that extended beyond the writing of history into the realms of politics, law, economics, citizenship, class and gender.
Also, since the second edition of 1587 was called in by the Privy Council and revised under supervision, the work constitutes an important test case for the history of early modern censorship.