Peck, Linda Levy
Peck, Linda Levy
Education: Yale University, Ph.D., 1973.
Historian, educator, writer, and editor. George Washington University, Washington, DC, Columbian Professor of History. Previous positions include faculty member at Purdue University, department of history, West Lafayette, IN, and member of the Institute for Research in History, New York, NY.
John Ben Snow prize for the best book in British Studies, 1991, for Court Patronage and Corruption in Early Stuart England.
Northampton, Patronage and Policy at the Court of James I, Allen & Unwin (Boston, MA), 1982.
Court Patronage and Corruption in Early Stuart England, Unwin Hyman (Boston, MA), 1990.
(Editor, with John Guy and David Smith)Bibliography in British History, 1500-1700(CD-ROM), Royal Historical Society (London, England), 1998.
Consuming Splendor: Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Historian Linda Levy Peck has written widely about early modern British politics, political thought, and culture. Peck's 1990 book,Court Patronage and Corruption in Early Stuart England, won the John Ben Snow prize for the best book in British Studies. The author focuses on corruption and patronage throughout Britain and its institutions, including the royal court and the navy. She also reveals how corruption and patronage was also insinuated into political ideology and language and resulted in important ties between monarchs and political elites. The author addresses a variety of questions concerning just how corrupt the English government at the time may have been, especially compared to other governments, and how much the workings of the government were affected negatively. "Overall, this is a good book, and will provide food for thought for some time," noted Conrad Russell in the English Historical Review.
Levy is also editor of The Mental World of the Jacobean Court, which presents essays from a variety of international specialists in history and political theory. Generally, the writers attempt to reconstruct the mental world of the court of James I (1603-25). Following Peck's introduction, the essays cover topics such as patronage and politics, the divine right of kings, and cultural diversity and change. "As the editor makes clear in her fine introduction, these essays do not attempt or achieve a new, coherent ‘model,’ but suggest other avenues of inquiry," wrote Renaissance Quarterly contributor Caroline Hibbard.
In her 2005 book,Consuming Splendor: Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England, Peck writes about luxury consumption in England from the beginning of the seventeenth century to around 1670. Peck shows that luxury consumption is not a modern trend but started centuries ago. She focuses primarily on how the consumption of luxury items had a tremendous impact on British society in terms of social practices, gender roles, royal policies, the economy, and other areas. "Peck's analysis of English consumption of continental luxury goods dispels the idea that consumer demand was merely embryonic in the early seventeenth century," wrote Rebeccas S. More in the Renaissance Quarterly.
From paintings and silks to chocolate and other items that were expensive at the time, seventeenth-century British citizens were more than willing to spend their disposable income, that is, if they were fortunate enough to have such income. Peck shows how this early form of luxury consumerism helped pave the way for the modern world of capitalistic materialism and international trade. Among the topics the author discusses are the development of new ways of shopping; the growth in building and furnishing houses; the idea of "collecting"; and how new aspirations toward a luxurious lifestyle were influenced by everything from print to travel to trade around the world. According to Peck, the consumption of luxury items also had a profound effect on helping England become a center of European innovation and growth.
Robert Bucholz, writing in the Historian, noted: "This sumptuous book posits nothing less than a reappraisal of the standard narrative of the history of seventeenth-century England," adding in the same review that the author "upsets a number of previously held orthodoxies about the history of high culture in England." Commenting on the close-up view that Peck provides of luxury consumption in the seventeenth century,History Today contributor Maxine Berg noted that the author "unpacks the trunks of wealthy royalist collectors after their travels round Europe. She visits the building sites and gardens of those refashioning their lives during and after the Interregnum [a period of parliamentary and military rule after the English Civil War], and shows us just how widely Continental material culture disseminated through the English elites from the 1640s onwards."
Several reviewers also commented on the book's forty-eight illustrations and the author's new insights into British consumerism in the past. For example, Pauline Croft wrote in the Journal of Social History: "Beautifully illustrated and full of fascinating detail,Consuming Splendor makes important claims that should give rise to wide debate." Canadian Journal of History contributor Beverly Lemire wrote: "This sumptuous book will doubtless become a classic treatment of seventeenth-century elite consumer culture in England, a volume beautifully illustrated."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Canadian Journal of History, winter, 2006, Beverly Lemire, review of Consuming Splendor: Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England.
English Historical Review, June, 1994, Conrad Russell, review of Court Patronage and Corruption in Early Stuart England, p. 721.
Historian, spring, 2007, Robert Bucholz, review of Consuming Splendor, p. 164.
History Today, December, 1996, review of Court Patronage and Corruption in Early Stuart England, p. 56; June, 2006, Maxine Berg, review of Consuming Splendor, p. 65.
Journal of British Studies, October, 2007, Sabrina Alcorn Baron, review of Consuming Splendor, p. 936.
Journal of Social History, summer, 2007, Pauline Croft, review of Consuming Splendor, p. 1038.
Renaissance Quarterly, autumn, 1996, Caroline Hibbard, review of The Mental World of the Jacobean Court, p. 647; fall, 2006, Rebecca S. More, review of Consuming Splendor, p. 955.