This book contains the results of the first large-scale quantitative investigation of naming practices in early modern England. Scott Smith-Bannister traces the history of the fundamentally significant human act of naming one's children during a period of great economic, social, and religious upheaval. Using in part the huge pool of names accumulated by the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structures, he sets out to show which names were most
commonly used, how children came to be given these names, why they were named after godparents, parents, siblings, or saints, and how social status affected naming patterns.
The chief historical significance of this research lies in the discovery of a substantial shift in naming practices in this period: away from medieval patterns of naming a child after a godparent and towards naming them after a parent. In establishing the chronology of how parents came to exercise greater choice in naming their children and over the nature of naming practices, it successfully supersedes previous scholarship on this subject. Resolutely statistical and rich in anecdote, Dr
Smith-Bannister's exploration of this deeply revealing subject will have far-reaching implications for the history of the English family and culture.
`Smith-Bannister obliges with the pioneering large-scale and thorough examination of personal naming practices in early modern England ... Smith-Bannister has produced the evidence to bring name giving beliefs more in line with the facts.'
Bibliotheque d'Humanism et Renaissance
`Smith-Bannister's work can only be described as ground-breaking, representing as it does one of the first serious attempts, let alone scholarly monographs, to address this important aspect of early modern history... this book provides the first published systematic study of early modern naming patterns on a national basis... throughout the work we are provided with vital empirical evidence that re-writes many of the assumptions which have dominated
thinking about the early modern names, and which have as a result often led scholars into errors about the unique ways in which the society functioned... this carefully researched, carefully structured and
well-written work... will undoubtedly open up this neglected field of historical enquiry.'
Will Coster, Continuity and Change, Vol.14 Part 3, 1999
`Smith-Bannister's carefully crafted and closely reasoned study of English names is a welcome addition to our knowledge... on which the author bases most of his inferences are satisfyingly large, numbering in the ten of thousands of regionally differentiated cases... the careful assaying of data before conclusions are drawn inspires confidence.'