Early modern English ideas of ‘home’ and ‘country’ had multiple layers of meaning. These included notions of domesticity and the household, as well as connections to the locality and country where an individual was born and lived. In 1550, the controversialist John Bale would assert that an early modern English man or woman was ‘at home’ both ‘in their shires or contrayes.’ That formulation is characteristic of the period: these categories, although distinctive, often overlapped as individuals merged ‘country’ and ‘home’ together to create a sense of belonging, identifying with a religious group, culture, place or nation. As the Tudor poet Stephen Hawes wrote, ‘a man in his own country, at home, if he be not of the household of faith: is a stranger.’ For Hawes, his country and home were akin to a domestic household, held together by an association to a religious identity. An individual’s identity was defined by their sense of where home and country was, but these became more fluid when applied to various aspects of an individual’s faith.
Between 1550 and 1700, England went through a period of rapid commercial expansion, encouraging merchants from all over Europe and further afield to settle in England to establish new homes for themselves. Wary that these merchants were sending money out of the country through trade, English authorities acted to curtail the trading potential of foreign merchants. To do so, many of these acts structured the parameters of what the English authorities perceived as an individual’s home and country. In 1530 Parliament concerned that foreign merchants had been sending goods back to ‘their own country to the detriment of England’ passed an ‘Acte for Denyzens to paye Straungers.’ This act sought to deal with these accusations by preventing foreign born Denizens from employing strangers, and by doing so authorities also hoped it would combat social anxiety surrounding the numbers of migrants arriving in London. The Act defined the individual's own country as where the foreign merchant had ‘been naturally born.’ Some two decades later, in a proclamation from the reign of Edward VI against idle persons, the Crown again ordered individuals to leave London and return to ‘their native Countreyes where they were borne.’ Early modern ideas of foreignness [see stranger-foreigner] meant that the order to return to ‘native Countreyes’ not only referred to national origin, but could also mean the domestic county a person was born in. Although not technically against merchants, the proclamation also stipulated that they go to ‘the places within the realme where they last dwelt by the space of three yeres’: in other words, a home city, town, or parish in England. The clause meant that migrants born outside of England, such as Huguenots and other religious refugees, through residency could identify a geographic space as a legal home in England. In doing so English authorities had established a form of early modern residency where foreign merchants and migrants could establish a legal home in England.
Alongside the individual's legal, family and national home, early modern people identified with the concept of the spiritual home. The spiritual home had two separate but connected meanings: the first could be described as the home, or, national faith, and the second the individual’s heavenly home. Both concepts were communicated through descriptions of foreignness that was connected to protestant ideas of original sin and spiritual distance from God and the individual's home. As the Marian reformer John Bradford wrote shortly before his execution, ‘Think something how we are strangers from our country from our home, from our original, I mean from god.’ Early modern English theologians and divines saw it as a responsibility to ensure that Englishmen and women did not travel spiritually, but remained with the home faith. In 1567 Matthew Parker, the Archbishop of Canterbury, described the responsibility of religious ministers as ensuring that individuals did not stray to far from their religious homes. According to Parker, the ministers were to ‘bée the Shepherdes appointed to seke up the straied shepe’ and to then ‘Cary them home againe into Gods folde.’ Similar English Catholics such as William Allen used the home as a motif for religious belonging. Allen lamented the influence of Protestantism describing it as the ‘unworthy deceiving of the unlerned’ and in similar language to Parker ordered that it was the role of good Catholic ‘to withstand the deceivers, and to help the simple home againe.’ The importance of belonging to the home or national faith was its connection to the heavenly home. As only when ‘God effectually called him home’ to the church could an individual gain access to the ‘eternal moste quiet and moste happy home.’
Although the most longstanding usage of the term ‘home’ signified an individual’s domestic dwelling, and its associations to family, increasingly over the early modern period the family home became discussed in dialogue with travel. Dating as far back as thirteenth century an individual’s home was linked to land and property, or as one thirteenth century lyricist described it, ‘His lond & his hus’ were ‘his hom.’ Similarly in fifteenth century, in the first English-to-Latin dictionary Promptorium parvulorum the ‘hoome’ is also the ‘dwelly[n]ge place.’ This sense of connection to a dwelling place continued into the early modern period, were the home was often connected to the family and domestic life. Often, this meant that the home was discussed as a static entity, especially in relation to women and their role within it. The identity of wives was often connected or fixated to the home and its daily running. Bale wrote that the ‘office’ of a wife was to ‘have seane to theyr famylyes at home, and not to gadde about.’ Similarly the Ambassador to France, Thomas Smith, noted of the role of women in the home that, ‘nature hath made to keep home and nourish the family’ and protect it. However, despite Bale and Smith’s accounts the home was not always considered a wholly static entity, and could travel both metaphorically and physically. English women such as Jane Dormer (1538–1612) and Lady Ann Fanshawe (1625–1680) not only travelled but also transported their homes with them when they moved abroad, as did other Englishmen and women who travelled in this period. In an increasingly mobile society, early modern authors became conscious of the dangers of outside influence on the family home and the effects this could have on the country as a whole.
Often travel was perceived to have detrimental effects on the running of the home. The translator and astrologer Thomas Hill most notably highlighted this when describing a dream in which ‘he wente from home into a straunge countrey, and loste the keye of his house.’ Returning home from the strange country he finds out that his home and family has been destroyed due to his daughters’ bad behaviour and his ‘wife, daughters, or maidens’ all being ‘enticed to follie in his house.’ The bleak picture Hill paints of a broken home was a metaphor for the dangers of travel on society as a whole, offering a warning against not only absence caused by travel but also influence of other cultures on home and country. Moreover, Hill highlights early modern concerns that travel and the experiences and knowledge gained from it could not only physically but also socially and culturally distance individuals from their home and country. In his Arte of Divine Meditation, the clergymen Joseph Hall also raised a similar concern. Although Hall suggested that travel allowed an individual to become ‘acquainted with the whole world’ he noted that by learning about ‘several formes of government and rules of State’ they would become ‘strangers at home.’ Hall’s concern, like Hill’s, was that Englishmen and women through travel would lose a sense of their national identity, and that influenced by other cultures an individual would slowly and inevitably become estranged from their home and country.
Just as travel could create a distance between the individual and their home and country, early modern writers also believed that travel could create a deeper bond between the them. For many sixteenth and seventeenth-century writers, absence made the heart grow fonder, as many travellers sought to return home to England to home and the lives they knew. The theologian Lancelot Ridley wrote how ‘Pylgrames and strangers farre from home desyreth ever homewardes’, concluding that the reason for this was to ‘come home where their treasure, ryches, frendes, lands, and possessyons.’ Unlike Hall and Hill’s paranoia, Ridely’s explanation for an individual’s return home was based in the inseparable connection between a traveller and various aspects of their home’s identity, whether that be their friends, family or possessions. As Hawes wrote, ‘I did then sone depart/ Home to my countrey, where I did abide.’
Between 1550 and 1700 England entered a period of intense commercial and territorial expansion, in which thousands of Englishmen and women travelled across the world establishing commercial and territorial centres from Boston to Bombay. Travel abroad often strengthened the individual’s links with home and country, as writers often focused on their desire to return to familiar surroundings, and the geographical and cultural distance that it created between the individual and their home and country was often negatively viewed. However, for those involved, transportation was often slow, tedious and deadly. In 1603, after returning from the first voyage of the East India Company (EIC), Nicolas Breton recalled how almost immediately he ‘found how I began to be mistaken; to leave the land for the sea, and a safe home for a strange harbour.’ In doing so, he concluded that in England he ‘should make thee like the better of home’ due to his experiences abroad. In an anonymous letter written to the Governors and Assistants of the EIC one individual was so happy to be returning to England that he wrote that after embarking from India for England, there was ‘great rejoicing’ aboard the ship he was on as they were all to ‘goe home into our Country after so tedious a pilgrimage.’ Similarly, William Allen wrote during the reign of Elizabeth that one individual in returning to England had gone back ‘home to your country.’ In all these cases in can be assumed that the authors were inferring that they were returning not only to their home country, but also their domestic homes.
Not all travel was viewed as negatively affecting home and country, and its effects were often considered positive for both, strengthening the individual’s connection to them as well as bringing new knowledge, trade and money into the homeland. As Richard Hakluyt argued, through the ‘prosperous and speedy discovery of many rich lands and territories of heathens and gentiles’ and the ‘honest employment of many thousands of our idle people’ trade and navigation would ‘turne to the infinite wealth and honour of our Countrey.’ Many years later towards the end of the seventeenth century the Governor of the EIC, Josiah Child, similarly declared that ‘very thing being to be prized above Gold, that encreaseth the Navigation of any Country, especially that of this Island of England.’ According to Child the ‘medium of mutual commerce’ not only benefited ‘infinite numbers of Families at home’ but also ‘transported to the remotest parts of the habitable known World, does not only maintain a Correspondence with Mankind’ and so ‘tends to the civilizing the unsociable Tempers of many barbarous People.’ For Child, Hakluyt, and many other seventeenth-century exponents of commercial expansion was that it benefited the country accommodating ‘our own Nation with much of their Treasures. Travel and commercial interaction with other cultures not only benefited in wealth, but also helped Englishmen and women to develop an international identity for their home and country, which was based on its global aims.
English people in the early modern era developed a multi-layered understanding of home and country. Both were connected by ideas of domesticity and religion as well as developing conceptions of a local, national and international identity. Although birth continued to play an important part of identifying one's country, increased migration, religious refugees and English commercial expansion meant that early modern England was considered both the home and country of numerous peoples born outside of England. Moreover, as these communities settled in England, and more English people travelled abroad, the traditional concepts of country and home changed to deal with the influences and pressures or transcultural interaction.