The Family of Love and the Making of English Revolutionary Religion: The Confession and “Conversions” of Giles Creech
Winner of the 2019 Harold Grimm Prize, awarded by the Sixteenth Century Society.
This article examines the “conversions” and confessions of Giles Creech, a London cutler who allegedly passed through “fourteen several religions” during his youth in early Stuart London. In 1638 Creech furnished the authorities with a detailed dossier on furtive communities of mystics, antinomians, and members of the Family of Love. Creech's dossier—transcribed and annotated here—is compared and verified against independent manuscript evidence, revealing the contours of a striking ecosystem of sectarian religion thriving in the capital. Creech's revelations are then used to unveil the nature of that ecosystem and to explore the ways in which Creech's Familist underground fed into, and was in turn transformed by, the anarchic sectarian eruptions of the English Civil War and Revolution. The resulting analysis illuminates the ideological upheavals that turned the political, spiritual, and literary worlds upside down in the 1640s and 1650s, permanently shattering England's religious unity.