Research Stream


Jasmin Parasiers
PhD Student at The University of Adelaide

Miscreant Youth in Early Modern England

This project explores the challenges that deviant youth presented to social, religious, political and emotional constructions of childhood in the seventeenth century.

Miscreant Youth in Early Modern England

Image: Youth Making a Face, Adriaen Brouwer, Youth Making a Face,c. 1632-1635. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.

The term “miscreant” was used in early modern publications to describe the most heretical, villainous and disruptive behaviours of those who engaged in illegal, anti-social or dangerous activities. Discussion of these behaviours coloured popular literature, statutes and personal reflections and public correspondence. This project seeks to explore how fringe behaviours of youth challenged traditional expectations, particularly in light of changing social expectations and the prescriptive literature of the period. By considering the social fears and anxieties that were generated about youth, this project will analyse what constituted miscreant behaviour and how this transgressed social and familial expectations. Conflicting representations of children and youth will be explored to consider how social boundaries were formed and how wider constructs of social control were challenged. Research will be guided by an overarching examination of how youthful miscreancy was defined and the factors that were most influential in establishing appropriate youthful conduct. A final aim is to consider images of miscreant youth and how these reflected changes in social, political and religious fears.