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Usher, Brett 1946–

Usher, Brett 1946–

PERSONAL:

Born December 10, 1946, in England.

CAREER:

Actor, writer, and historian. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, associate editor, 1998-2004, research associate, 2005—; University of Reading, Reading, England, visiting research fellow, 2002—; Royal Historical Society, London, England, fellow, 2003—. Has adapted stage plays and written radio plays and features for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service drama department; founding member of the Church of England Record Society, 1991; member of the working committee of the John Foxe Project until 2004; founding member of the Church of England Clergy Data Base Project, 1997.

WRITINGS:

(Editor, with Patrick Collinson, John Craig, and Brett Usher) Conferences and Combination Lectures in the Elizabethan Church: Dedham and Bury St. Edmunds, 1582-1590, Boydell Press (Woodbridge, England), 2003.

William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559-1577, Ashgate Publishing (Burlington, VT), 2003.

Contributor of more than fifty entries on Elizabethan and Jacobean clergyman in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Contributor to books, including The Myth of Elizabeth, edited by Susan Doran and Thomas Freeman, Palgrave/Macmillan (London, England), 2003; Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America, ABC-Clio (Santa Barbara, CA), 2006; The Tudors and Stuarts on Film, edited by Susan Doran and Thomas Freeman, Palgrave/Macmillan (London, England), 2009; and The Elizabethan World, edited by Susan Doran and Thomas Freeman, Palgrave/Macmillan (London, England), 2003. Contributor to journals, including Journal of Ecclesiastical History and Studies in Church History.

SIDELIGHTS:

Brett Usher, born December 10, 1946, has authored and edited several volumes regarding the English clergy and their role in governance, particularly during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Usher coedited Conferences and Combination Lectures in the Elizabethan Church: Dedham and Bury St. Edmunds, 1582-1590, which chronicles the monthly meetings of several clergymen who met in secret in the vicinity of Dedham, England, to discuss matters of state throughout a period of approximately eight years. These men kept papers and notes detailing the clandestine meetings, and the lectures that were delivered within, and it is from these documents that the editors take the source material for the book. Boydell Press stated on their Web site that the volume offers a unique understanding of "that network of ‘godly’ ministers whose professed aim was to modify the strict provisions of the Elizabethan settlement of religion." The meetings were subversive in nature due to their puritanical interests and necessitated discretion from their members so as not to be found in violation of any English laws, which, under the ruling monarchy, would have been punished severely. Michael P. Winship, in a review for the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, declared that Conferences and Combination Lectures in the Elizabethan Church illustrates "the formidable internal strains and external pressures facing the Puritan movement in the 1580s," and that the text provides "an overview of the Elizabethan Church of England" during this period of time. Winship also noted the inclusion of "a lengthy biographical register" and a refutation manuscript written by John Rogers, who was dismissed from the group of clergymen for attacking a sermon in favor of Presbyterianism.

Ashgate Publishing stated on their Web site that focusing on an earlier period of ecclesiastical history in William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559-1577, Usher "utilises a number of hitherto underused primary sources to [re]examine the vexed issue of the role of bishops" and takes an expansive "chronological approach." Usher explores the tumultuous religious landscape and the balance that the Elizabethan Church achieved during this time period through the relationship of William Cecil and the court. Pauline Croft, in her essay for HNet: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, wrote that Usher "approaches the religious settlement of 1559 and the construction of a national Protestant church through the techniques of prosopography." "Prosopography" is a holistic approach to historical studies in which the scholar takes into account a collection of information in determining the context of past events. Using this method of study, Usher questions the court's attitudes and motivations regarding clerical appointments in addition to particular actions and financial records. Croft observed that the text traces a man's "subsequent installment as one of the bench of twenty-six English and Welsh diocesan bishops in the House of Lords." An individual's maneuvering into one of the most powerful positions in the Elizabethan administration is of the utmost importance to Usher's thesis. Croft commented, "The approach pays off exceptionally well in the early chapters analyzing the 1559 settlement and its aftermath"; for, "one detailed appendix gives a comprehensive summary of the transactions between the Exchequer and the thirty-nine men who became bishops between 1559 and 1577" and "a second appendix attempts to assess the Crown's revenues during episcopal vacancies." Furthermore, Dewey D. Wallace, Jr., in a contribution to Church History, reported that Usher's "investigation includes about two hundred members of the clerical estate during that reign. Focusing on the finances and administration of the English church, and based mainly on archival material, especially exchequer records, Usher teases out the complicated relationship of Principal Secretary, and then Lord Treasurer, William Cecil (Lord Burghley) and Queen Elizabeth as they chose bishops and defined the Episcopal office for the Protestant Church of England." Wallace concluded that William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559-1577 is a "careful and impressive book."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Church History, March 1, 2005, Dewey D. Wallace, Jr., review of William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559-1577, p. 168.

English Historical Review, September 1, 2004, Patrick Collinson, review of William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559-1577, p. 1053.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History, January 1, 2005, Michael P. Winship, review of Conferences and Combination Lectures in the Elizabethan Church: Dedham and Bury St. Edmunds, 1582-1590, p. 169; April 1, 2005, Stephen Alford, review of William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559-1577, p. 388.

Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2004, review of William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559-1577, p. 22.

Renaissance Quarterly, March 22, 2006, Renee Bricker, review of William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559-1577, p. 256.

Sixteenth Century Journal, June 22, 2005, Andrew A. Chibi, review of William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559-1577, p. 472.

ONLINE

Ashgate Publishing Web site,http://www.ashgate.com/ (June, 2008), description of William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559-1577.

Boydell Press Web site,http://www.boydell.co.uk/ (June 27, 2008), description of Conferences and Combination Lectures in the Elizabethan Church.

H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www.h-net.org/ (January, 2005), Pauline Croft, review of William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559-1577.

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