Prophecy and Political Expression in Cromwellian England

Katharine Gillespie

in The Oxford Handbook of Literature and the English Revolution

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199560608
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Prophecy and Political Expression in Cromwellian England

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)



This article examines the prophets and prophecies in Cromwellian England. Among these is Anna Trapnel, a young seamstress in London who, as a child, had received the gift of prophecy from her dying mother. A nine-day fast precipitated what would turn into a nearly ten-year period of time when Trapnel received ‘many Visions’, visions that would haunt the contours of the rise and fall of the new order over the course of the 1650s. In the years leading up to and forming the Civil War period, self-proclaimed seers exploited Parliament's lax enforcement of its own censorship laws to fill the bookstalls at St Paul's Cathedral with an unprecedented number of penny prophecies. When Parliament re-established censorship laws in the 1650s, there was a consequential dip in output, but the anxieties conveyed by prohibitions against prophecy served only to highlight its ongoing potency and appeal.

Keywords: prophecies; Interregnum; Anna Trapnel; prophets; Oliver Cromwell; censorship

Article.  9565 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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