Keeping it in the family: Interdisciplinary kinship and association studies of the Stanley family within the corporation oligarchy in seventeenth century Canterbury


  • John William Chandler



Genealogies are essential to inform historical narratives and the activities of communities. For much of the early modern period, civic corporations in English provincial cities were oligarchies composed of wealthy citizens. Corporations have been well-studied as entities, but the interrelationships between the individuals of which they were composed are often neglected in historical research and remain unelaborated. Canterbury in Kent was a nationally important and prosperous town in the seventeenth century, not least as England’s primary ecclesiastical centre and an historic pilgrimage site. A case study is presented here, focused on the wealthy Stanley family of brewers that originated from Ripple, Kent, which provided three generations of Canterbury mayors. The family’s extended consanguinal and connubial members occupied important civic positions, including one-quarter of all mayors within a 60-year period between 1626 and 1686, during a turbulent period of political and social change that spanned the civil war. The kinship and association network here outlines how the seventeenth century Canterbury corporation was highly interrelated, and provides a personal context within which urban politics can be examined. The study exemplifies the relevance of kinship webs and association ties in interdisciplinary approaches involving communities, local government, social history and politics.


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