Atherton, IJ (2022) ‘John Duncalf the man that did rott both hands & leggs’: Chronicle of a Death Retold in the Long Eighteenth Century. Midland History. ISSN 0047-729X

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In 1677 John Duncalf, a Staffordshire labourer, fell ill after falsely swearing that he had not stolen a bible. He was visited by droves as he lay helpless, the flesh of his legs and arms mysteriously rotting away until they dropped off and he died. His suffering and death were publicized and debated, and his case was recirculated throughout the eighteenth century. This article analyses the different constructions placed upon his death, showing how there was an anti-atheist Duncalf; a Duncalf for church comprehension; a medicalized Duncalf; a Duncalf the curiosity; a Staffordshire Duncalf; an anti-papist Duncalf; and a Duncalf who was more palatable to Catholics; a Duncalf for the elites; and a Duncalf for the poor; and a Methodist Duncalf. The persistence across the long eighteenth century of a story often told as a Providential warning against swearing allows for some reconsideration of arguments about secularization and disenchantment.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ars moriendi; contested memories; religious conformity; religious nonconformity; methodism; Staffordshire; Providence
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 06 May 2022 13:25
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2022 15:10

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