Relationality, community and collaboration in seventeenth-century Chancery court records

Mary Chadwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article adds significantly to the literature on the value of Chancery court documents, depositions in particular, demonstrating their worth as a source of information about early modern community relations, and collective and individual identity. Through a detailed reading of one particular late seventeenth-century case, it argues that depositions should be viewed as collaborations between plaintiffs, defendants, legal counsel and deponents. These sources are framed as communally produced and as the results of collaborations between multiple members of various overlapping community circles. Using the concept of relationality, as it is defined and deployed by scholars of life writing who note that virtually all autobiographical acts involve biographies of others, the article casts new light on the ways in which subjectivities were formed by individuals’ positions in relation to others. When applied to Chancery documents, close reading practices allow us to speculatively recreate the communities from which depositions and pleadings arose and to identify instances of contextualised self-construction within deponents’ representations of themselves, others, and those communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-852
Number of pages20
JournalSeventeenth Century
Issue number5
Early online date23 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2023

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