Diligent enquiries and perfect accounts
Central initiatives and local agency in the English civil war
in Connecting centre and locality
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In 1650, anticipating a Scottish invasion, a Herefordshire parliamentarian published a pamphlet enumerating the ‘plunderings, losses and sufferings’ in the county at the hands of the Scottish army’ that had besieged the city of Hereford in 1645. The pamphlet, an abstract of 160 parish accounts of losses, might be regarded as a strategic deployment of information efficiently gathered by central authority from the localities. Clearly, the increased scope, and energy of central government in early modern England can be demonstrated through the soliciting of information from the localities as well as through its transmission, and Parliament’s civil war regime was no exception, albeit in more contested circumstances. But the drawing up accounts of civil war losses does not demonstrate straightforwardly successful enforcement or willing compliance. Accounting reveals instead the strength of local agency, not through disobedience but in responses that subverted central priorities. It was a form of political communication that used manuscript and print to reflect on local experience, and to conduct intra-parliamentarian disputes, while also prompting broader reflections on the public service and the burdens of war, generating political agendas that were national in scope but certainly not set by central authority.

Connecting centre and locality

Political communication in early modern England

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