In early modern England, spectral figures were regular visitors to the world of the living and a vibrant variety of beliefs and expectations clustered around these questionable shapes. Yet whilst historians have established the importance of ghosts as cultural resources that were used to articulate a range of contemporary concerns about worldly life, we know less about the social and personal dynamics that underpinned the telling, recording, and circulation of ghost stories at the time. This article therefore focuses on a unique set of manuscript sources relating to apparitions in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England to uncover a different vantage point. Drawing on the life-writing and correspondence of the antiquarian who collected the narratives, it lays bare concerns about familial relations and gender that ghost stories were bound up with. Tracing the way that belief in ghosts functioned at an individual level also allows the recovery of the personal religious sensibilities and spiritual imperatives that sustained and nourished continuing belief in ghosts. This subjective angle demonstrates that ghost stories were closely intertwined with processes of grieving and remembering the dead, and they continued to be associated with theological understandings of the afterlife and the fate of the soul.
Sangha, L. (2020). THE SOCIAL, PERSONAL, and SPIRITUAL DYNAMICS of GHOST STORIES in EARLY MODERN ENGLAND. Historical Journal, 63(2), 339–359. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X1800047X