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Fox, Adam 1964-

FOX, Adam 1964-


Born 1964. Education: Holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees.


Office—University of Edinburgh, School of History and Classics, Department of Economic and Social History, William Robertson Building, Room 236, Edinburgh, Scotland. E-mail—[email protected]


Author and educator. University of Edinburgh, School of History and Classics, lecturer, 1994—.


Newling History Prize, Jesus College, Cambridge, 1986; Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship, Harvard University, 1987-1988; research fellowship, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, 1991-1994; Whitfield Prize, Royal Historical Society, 2000, Katharine Briggs Award, Folklore Society, 2001, Longman/History Today Award, 2002, all for Oral and Literature Culture in England, 1500-1700.


(Editor, with Paul Griffiths and Steve Hindle, and contributor) The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.

(Editor, with Daniel Woolf) Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500-1700, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor) The Spoken Word: Oral Culture in Britain, 1500-1850, Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to publications such as Past and Present, Historical Journal, and Transactions of the Royal Historical Society.


The Age of Revolution: England, 1643-1689 (with Steve Pincus), part of "The New Oxford History of England" series; The Foundations of Modern Social Science, a monograph.


Historian and author Adam Fox researches and writes on topics relevant to literacy, oral communication, and writing in the history of Britain. Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500-1700 offers "an excellent and compendious contribution to the historical study of English vernacular culture," commented Jonathan Roper in Folklore. "A substantial work of social history, it is the result of a vast amount of background reading," Roper observed. Fox posits that in early English society, there was a considerable interaction between speech, script, and print, and "early modern Englishmen lived in a fundamentally literate environment," remarked Jo Ann H. Moran in Albion.

Characteristics of oral and written speech helped shape the individual and cultural identities of the early English, Fox suggests. Dialects gave people a "sense of identity and attachment to their region or district," commented R. A. Houlbrooke in the English HistoricalReview. Different occupations and geographical areas had their own dialects, which in turn let the speakers of those dialects identify more closely with their colleagues and countrymen. Each part of the country also displayed its own adages, sayings, stories, and related types of cultural and conversational bon mots. These sayings transmitted a vast trove of accumulated wisdom to new generations, while keeping that same wisdom alive for those who needed to hear it again.

In this environment, oral culture interacted with and was profoundly influenced by written and printed sources. Printing of the Bible and collections of proverbs, as well as printed editions of important legends and stories from throughout England, "helped to spawn a mass of new local associations on which enduring oral traditions were to be based," Houlbrooke noted. Oral tradition was itself challenged by the permanence that print allowed, fixing versions of stories in place for successive readers. The development of customary law and various legal systems necessitated the ability to record in writing charges or accusations made within the legal system. "In each case, painstaking research in many types of sources enables Fox to tell us far more than we might have thought it possible to know about the permeation of text into popular culture and the contribution of oral tradition to publication and print," stated Kevin Sharpe in the Times Literary Supplement. Fox "concludes that early modern England was a far more literate culture than many early modern historians have understood, and that prior ideas of a dichotomous oral (less elite) versus literate (more elite) society cannot begin to [accurately] frame a society where oral and literate modes of communications blended and reinforced one another at all levels of society," Moran commented.

"Adam Fox has written a most illuminating and thought-provoking account of his important subject, illustrated with an immense number of telling, pertinent, and memorable examples," Houlbrooke stated. Roper commented that Fox "has produced a wonderful, thought-provoking book, packed with detail, that should be read by everyone interested in traditional culture in the early modern period." David Cressy, writing on the H-Net Reviews web site, called the book "a solidly crafted piece of work, deeply researched and skillfully written."

Fox also served as coeditor of the scholarly collection, The Spoken Word: Oral Culture in Britain, 1500-1850. The book offers "a useful collection of essays on the significance of oral culture in Britain" during 350 years of the country's history and development, wrote Felicity Heal in the English Historical Review. Fox and coeditor Daniel Woolf provide an introduction that reviews the relevant theories of British oral culture. Other contributors cover a variety of oral traditions in depth, including Gaelic-language preaching, Scottish genealogy, oral tradition in English rural culture, English reformers' use of oral tradition, and more. The editors "are almost obsessively anxious to show the interpenetration of the written and spoken word, and to indicate that cultural flow was not necessarily from the latter to the former," Heal observed.



Albion, winter, 2002, Jo Ann H. Moran Cruz, review of Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500-1700, p. 639.

Economic History Review, November, 1997, Tim Harris, review of The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England, p. 836.

English Historical Review, April, 1999, Robert Shoemaker, review of The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England, p. 440; April, 2002, R. A. Houlbrooke, review of Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500-1700, p. 389; February, 2004, Felicity Heal, review of The Spoken Word: Oral Culture in Britain, 1500-1850, p. 201.

Folklore, April, 2004, Jonathan Roper, review of Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500-1700, p. 112.

Journal of Historical Geography, January, 1998, Phil Harrison, review of The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England, p. 109.

Labor History, February, 1999, James Epstein, review of The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England, p. 118.

Social History, January, 1998, Malcolm Gaskill, review of The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England, p. 104.

Times Literary Supplement, July 13, 2001, Kevin Sharpe, review of Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500-1700, p. 30.


H-Net Reviews Web site, (December, 2001), David Cressy, review of Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500-1700.*

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