The relationship between religious reform and alchemy in England, c.1450-1650

Screti, Zoe Claire ORCID: 0000-0002-3306-2959 (2023). The relationship between religious reform and alchemy in England, c.1450-1650. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis argues that the Reformation played a key role in shaping English alchemy between c.1450 and c.1650. Alchemists engaged continuously with intricate details of Reformed theology, with religion being essential for the formation of alchemical theories such as the transformation of corporeal matter, the restoration of corrupt substances to prelapsarian purity, and the relationship between God and nature. Recent historians of alchemy, however, seldom accept religious reform as a driver of change in England. My thesis offers the first study of the relationship between the English Reformation and alchemy. It demonstrates that alchemy was not monolithic but was rather continually reshaped by its relationship to religious reform. Through an in-depth analysis of previously unstudied manuscripts, I uncover hitherto unknown or understudied figures and reveal that the Reformation was fundamental in the shaping of their alchemical thought. I question how these alchemists made sense of alchemical texts by uniting their spiritual beliefs and exegetical methods with the alchemical tradition, and further explore how these individuals responded to broader currents in socio-cultural and geo-political thought, concluding that religious reform shaped English alchemy in significant ways.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: Other
Other Funders: University of Birmingham, College of Arts and Law
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain


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