HISTORIANS are rightly suspicious of axioms, those capsules of historical ‘truth’ that pass into the received wisdom about a particular time period. Part of our job is to explode historical myth, to scrutinise and re-evaluate existing versions of the past. Yet how hard it is to think outside of the paradigms that are the legacy of an impressive bibliography and a legion of footnotes. I myself became aware of one particular paradigm regarding the cultural history of early modern England in the course of postgraduate research. I found myself straying across one of those temporal boundaries that arises from the chronological fragmentation imposed by textbooks and course syllabuses. In short, I moved from the pre-Civil-War period, with which I was then more familiar, into the early years of the long eighteenth century. It appeared to me that the literary sources from the late 1600s, which were the subject of my doctoral research, had much in common with the popular literature of earlier periods – the almanacs and chapbooks so well described by Bernard Capp, Margaret Spufford and others. The popular press of the last quarter of the seventeenth century seemed familiar territory: monstrous births, providential occurrences, and various forms of advice to young people were as much the staple diet for readers of cheap print in late seventeenth-century London as they had been in the era of Gouge and Whateley. The observation of such continuities had little relevance, however, since the preoccupation of historians studying this later period had changed.