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Sir John Cheke and the Cambridge Connection in Tudor England
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7/19/2014 to 7/20/2014
When: 7/19/2014

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2014 marks the quincentenary of the birth of one of the most significant, but neglected, scholars of Renaissance England, Sir John Cheke (1514-57), fellow of St John's College, Cambridge , and the first Regius Professor of Greek in the University. This conference offers a focused look at Cheke and the important group of colleagues who first coalesced around him at Cambridge, including Thomas Smith, William Cecil, Roger Ascham, Thomas Wilson and others. We will examine the Cambridge group as classical humanists, political thinkers and actors, religious reformers, shapers of the English language and literature, and promoters of mathematical and scientific studies, and in relation to socioeconomic changes and gender attitudes in their times.

The conference fee is £30, with a reduced rate of £15 for PhD students and the unwaged. To book a place at the conference, please visit


19 July

8:30 registration—coffee, tea and biscuits 

introductory remarks

Session A: Renaissance humanism and the Cambridge connection Dr Richard Rex (University of Cambridge ), ‘soch a companie of fellowes and scholers’: humanism at St John’s College, 1516-60 Dr Andrew Taylor (University of Cambridge), Cheke’s translation of Leo VI’s Taktika and its fortuna Dr Fred Schurink (Northumbria University), Cheke’s ghost: reading Demosthenes in Tudor England 

11-12:30 Session B: The Greek pronunciation controversy of 1542 Prof. John McDiarmid (New College of Florida), The place of the controversy in the history of the Cambridge connection Dr Micha Lazarus (University of Cambridge), John Cheke’s Reforming Greek Prof. Judith Rice Henderson (University of Saskatchewan), Mid-Tudor Language Debates in the Context of ‘Erasmian Ciceronianism’

12:30-2 lunch, Divinity School 

Session C: Other languages of the Cambridge Connection Richard Simpson, (Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London), Disputed sounds: Thomas Smith on the pronunciation of Greek, representing the evanescent in sound and image Prof. Jeremy Smith (University of Glasgow), Cheke and the reformation of English Christine Knaack (University of York), Cheke’s Political Idiom: The Hurt of Sedition and the King’s True Subject 

 afternoon tea and pastries 

Session D: Evangelical religion and the Cambridge connection Dr Aysha Pollnitz (Grinnell College), Cheke’s religious self-fashioning before 1547 Dr Lucy Nicholas (Tel Aviv University), New perspectives on Cambridge’s role in the religious Reformation: Roger Ascham and the early Edwardian religious debates at the University Dr Anne Overell (Durham University), John Cheke and the ‘strangeness’ of Italian reformers

Optional off-campus dinner

20 July

8:30 coffee, tea and biscuits 

Session E: The Cambridge connection: political impacts Prof. Stephen Alford (University of Leeds), Cheke, Ascham, Cecil and England’s royal Athenian Dr Alan Bryson (University of Sheffield), Cambridge connections, commonweal men, and the government of mid-Tudor England Prof. Scott Lucas (The Citadel), The Oxford Connection: Oxford evangelicals in mid-Tudor court and humanist cultures 

Session F: The Continuing Connection Prof. Norman Jones (Utah State University) John Cheke, the Cambridge connection, and the shaping of the Elizabethan state Dr Tracey Sowerby (University of Oxford), The Elizabethan Athenians Dr Cerianne Lara Law (Queen Mary, University of London), The continuing connection: the Athenians and the University of Cambridge, c. 1547-1598

12:30-2 lunch 

Session G—Women Surrounding Cheke Prof. Susan Wabuda (Fordham University), ‘We walk as pilgrims’: Agnes Cheke and Cambridge Jane Lawson (Emory University), Lady Mary Cheke, Courtier 

 afternoon tea and pastries 

 Roundtable/General discussion

An exhibit of manuscripts and books related to Cheke and the Cambridge Connection will be on view in the St John’s College Library concurrently with the conference. A tour of Cheke’s St John’s will be led by Dr Mark Nicholls, Fellow and Librarian of the College.

The organisers gratefully acknowledge the financial support for the conference from St John's College, University of Cambridge; the George Macaulay Trevelyan Fund of the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge; the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge; the Bethune-Baker Fund, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge; and the Society for Renaissance Studies.

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