David Como and Ian Atherton (Keele University, U.K.), “The Burning of Edward Wightman: Puritanism, Prelacy and the Politics of Heresy in Early Modern England,” English Historical Review, 120 (2005).
Edward Wightman, the last person burned at the stake for heresy in England, in April 1612, has usually been dismissed, his anti-Trinitarian speculations seen as the product of a deranged mind. Close study of his surviving trial records, however, reveals that Wightman was a leading member of the godly clique in his home town of Burton-upon-Trent, and that he had very similar ideas to Bartholomew Legate, another anti-Trinitarian who was burned at the stake just a few weeks before him. Both men emerge as the victims of a complex series of events: the king's desire to be seen as orthodox in the light of the Vorstius affair; the in-fighting for control of the ecclesiastical establishment on the elevation of George Abbot to the archbishopric of Canterbury; and the campaign of the emerging anti-Calvinist group around Bishop Richard Neile against puritans. Wightman's career from puritan to heretic suggests that recent historiography stressing puritanism as a force for social and political order has underestimated the degree that the godly community contained within itself all the components necessary to generate profoundly radical people and ideas.