The starting point of my research is that citizenship has never been a fixed set of ideas or values. It can be a means of control and regulation, but it can also empower and provide agency; it can seek cohesion and consensus, but it can also provoke resistance; it can emphasize duties, but it can demand rights.
My recent publications have explored the multiple senses of citizenship evident in a particular time and place – English towns and cities between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries – and have shown how there were persistent tensions between different ideas of citizenship. These tensions gave a fractious quality to town politics and, when they collided, animated popular resistance and struggle over issues such as freedom of speech and access to common land. In turn, the experience of conflict and protest shaped competing concepts of citizenship. The active citizen was not necessarily the obedient citizen.
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