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Journal > Volumes > 41 (2010) / 2 (Summer)
“Under Felt Hats and Worsted Stockings”: The Uses of Conscience in Early Modern English Coroners’ Inquests
Carol Loar
University of South Carolina Upstate

This article explores how ordinary people—those below the ranks of the educated elite—understood and made use of conscience in the years after the Reformation. While much is known about the ideas of theologians and legal scholars regarding this issue, no other work has attempted to recover popular notions of conscience. This article argues that coroners’ inquests reveal the early modern shift from the objective understanding of conscience to the newer, subjective understanding. Jurors and the kings’ almoners employed conscience in different ways and for different purposes; the almoners’ suits suggest that this shift in the understanding of conscience may have been a “bottom-up” movement in which the jurors utilized the idea of a subjective conscience while the almoner retained the older, objective conscience until later in the seventeenth century.

Pages: 393 - 414