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Sara Bradley


Cheap Print and Prejudice: The nature and role of anti-Spanish sentiment in cheap print between 1580 and 1590

This project will investigate the portrayal of the Spaniard in English cheap print produced in London in the 1580s. The middle decades of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign were a particularly turbulent time for Anglo-Spanish relations, and this investigation will consider how this was conveyed in pamphlets contemporaneous with the exploits of Sir Francis Drake and the attack of the Spanish Armada. Although Hispanophobia was a regular motif of the pamphlets printed in this decade, the nature and frequency of anti-Spanish sentiment varied across the period. By considering the context surrounding the publication of each pamphlet, alongside who produced them and their likely audience, this study will assess the impact that they had on the national consciousness, and to what end.

Concepts such as nation, national consciousness and national identity are notoriously hard to define for the early modern period. In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson suggests that the dawn of the age of nationalism in Western Europe can be placed in the eighteenth century, and is intrinsically linked with ‘the dusk of religious modes of thought’. Equally, Eric Hobsbawm argues that ‘[t]he nation is a very recent newcomer in human history […] it belongs exclusively to a particular, and historically recent, period’ which he considers to be post-1780. This placing of the development of an English nation no earlier than the mid to late eighteenth century is a widely held view amongst modernist historians, but revisionists such as Adrian Hastings have argued that the origins of the concept of an  English nation can be found in literature produced as early as the eighth century. Hastings goes so far as to suggest that ‘the greatest intensity of [England’s] nationalist experience together with its overseas impact must undoubtedly be located in and after the late sixteenth century’. This thesis will consider the validity of the link between England’s early aspirations regarding overseas territory and the construction of national consciousness, focusing on the creation of the ‘other’ which, in this case, was the Spanish and their established overseas Empire. It will further be considered to what extent the religious divides in post-Reformation England were a factor in the development of anti-Spanish sentiment in English cheap print, and the impact of increasing hostilities between the two countries on the representations of Spaniards in print. 

I will be considering printed materials of less than 100 pages, both bound and unbound, in order to confine my research to texts that would have been cheap enough to be affordable to the common person, and therefore may have been disseminated at, and therefore influenced, all levels of society. Scholarship on the topic of anti-Spanish sentiment in England during this period focuses mainly on elite literature and politics, and whilst some historiography deals with popular culture, this is mainly limited to the study of drama and great works of fiction. Cressy examines the importance of traditional and religious festivals for post-Reformation English identities, but confines the discussion of Spanish influence to periodic episodes such as the Armada and the Spanish Match. I intend to produce the first comprehensive survey of representations of the Spaniard in cheap print to ascertain the role of anti-Spanish sentiment in the formation of early modern English national identity. 


Supervisors and Institution(s): Dr Amy Fuller (Notingham Trent University)

                                                     Dr John McCallum (Nottingham Trent University)

                                                     Dr Jeremy Lawrance (University of Nottingham)



Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

'Changing Minds: The Construction of English Protestant Identity via the Medium of the Murder Pamphlet between 1580 and 1640' Paper delivered at Nottingham Trent University postgraduate conference, 20/05/2015.

‘Protestant Propaganda or National Pride?’ Paper delivered at University of Nottingham SPLAS forum 20/06/2016.

‘Protestant propaganda or national pride? The role of anti-Spanish sentiment in English pamphlets between 1585-1589’ Paper delivered 14/07/2016 at Nottingham Trent University’s Early Modern Forum conference.

Article ‘Politics, Celebrity and Sir Francis Drake’ submitted for publication in ‘History Today’ March Issue.

Presentation and Q+A at Nottingham PubhD, 20/04/2016.

The Brilliant Club 'Scholars Programme' tutor, Spring Term 2016.


Other Research Interests:

  • Death and Religion, English Reformations, Early Modern Print Networks.






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University email address: Sara Bradley

LinkedIn: Sara Bradley



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