Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 March 2014
The term ‘creativity’ did not come into common usage in the English language until towards the end of the nineteenth century, which makes it a potentially odd candidate for inclusion in the title of a book that focuses on the long seventeenth century. Yet the concept of creativity as we would understand it today – ‘the faculty of being creative; ability or power to create’ – can be traced back to the earliest humanity, and there is, of course, abundant evidence of what we would regard uncontroversially as creative activities that took place in early modern England. The fact that the seventeenth-century men and women who participated in such creativity would not have described these activities in the way we would do today is, in essence, the subject of this book: the essays in this collection seek to explore through specific case studies a wide range of ideas, beliefs and approaches to creativity that existed in seventeenth-century England, and to place them in the context of the prevailing intellectual, social and cultural trends of the period. In doing so, the book draws into focus the profound changes that were emerging in the understanding of human creativity in early modern society, transformations that would eventually lead to the development of a more recognizably modern conception of the notion of creativity.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest reference to ‘creativity’ did in fact occur in the seventeenth century, in George Lawson's 1659 publication Theo-Politica: Or, A Body of Divinity.