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Utopia Pre-Empted: Kett's Rebellion, Commoning, and the Hysterical Sublime

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In 1549, on Mousehold Heath, outside Norwich, the campmen of Kett's Rebellion created the greatest practical utopian project of Tudor England. Using a commoning rhetoric and practice, they tried to restore the moral economy of the county community, ally themselves with the reforming regime of Protector Somerset, and create a Protestant monarchical republic of small producers. In opposition, Tudor gentlemen and their chroniclers used ‘the hysterical sublime’, a rhetoric and practice of pre-emptive decisionist violence, to crush the Norwich commune, overthrow Somerset, and accelerate capitalist primitive accumulation. These two visions of culture and society continued to clash in Tudor England, but the gentlemen had gained the upper hand.

Affiliations: 1: State University of New York, Buffalo;, Email:


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