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Reforming endowments
H. S. Jones

Corruption is fundamentally about the blurring of the distinction between public life and private interests. In Victorian Britain the reform of endowed institutions was a key arena for the renegotiation of these boundaries, and it was one that sharply divided Liberals from Conservatives. A series of controversies pitted the Liberals’ reforming programme against the Conservative defence of endowments. These included the opening up of Oxford and Cambridge to non-Anglicans, the disendowment of the Irish church, the secularisation of the governing bodies of endowed schools under the terms of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869 and the abortive attempt in the 1880s to assert public control over the endowments of the City livery companies. This chapter elucidates the distinctive position developed by Gladstonian Liberals on the question of endowments. It focuses in particular on the stance taken by a number of Gladstonians and their role in endowment controversies, notably through their work on a sequence of royal commissions – among them key figures such as Lord Lyttelton, James Bryce, Henry Roby and Joshua Fitch. In doing so, the chapter deepens our understanding of some of the forgotten dimensions of institutional reform in Victorian Britain, and the distinctive contribution of Gladstonian Liberalism to shaping modern notions of public service and corruption.

in The many lives of corruption
Puritans, conformity and the challenge of Laudianism
Anthony Milton

This chapter takes issue with the idea that Laudianism posed an existential threat to puritanism, and it argues that, despite plentiful evidence about the prosecution of puritan ministers and lay people, of emigration and of exile, there remains scope to rethink the religious issues and divisions of the period. This is achieved by reflecting on debates amongst puritans during the 1640s, as Presbyterians and Independents traded blows over how their rivals had gone too far in accommodating and conforming themselves to, Laudian reforms, and over who had the best credentials as anti-Laudians. These debates, which constitute contests for legitimacy, and which are evident in contemporary printed exchanges, are valuable for shining light upon evidence regarding those puritans who proved willing to contemplate partial conformity with undesirable reforms and policies in the decades before the civil wars. Such conformity involved an awkward and neglected process, and its recovery is important for addressing some of the more problematic aspects of the Laudian experience for England’s godly, as well as for recovering overlooked possibilities that once existed for rapprochement between puritans and the Caroline regime, and for an alternative policy trajectory during the personal rule.

in Insolent proceedings
The transmission of civil war materials, 1642–9
Karen Britland

In late November 1645, a lame soldier was stopped and searched on his way out of Cardiff by the city's Parliamentarian governor. His wooden leg was unscrewed and was found to contain 18 ‘letters of consequence’, including one from Prince Maurice to Prince Charles and another from Secretary Nicholas to General Goring. The letters were sent up to the Commons: the lame soldier’s fate is not recorded. This chapter explores the clandestine transportation of letters by royalists during the English Revolution (in hatbands, gloves, hose, hollow canes, shoes and even in the belly). It investigates how poor men and women’s identities were often of less interest to newsbook writers than the messages they carried, and looks at the ways in which messengers hazarded their lives and bodies for the transmission of texts. Asking at what point information becomes of greater value than an individual human life, this chapter weighs up the ways in which bodies and texts became intertwined during the English Revolution.

in Insolent proceedings
Sean Kelsey

This essay revisits the issue of ‘indemnity’ for behaviour undertaken on behalf of the parliamentarian cause during the civil wars, not least by members of the army. This is an issue that has generated historiographical debate, in terms of whether or not contemporary debates over the issue serve to reveal parliamentarian ‘tyranny’, and in terms of how to understand the ‘rise of the New Model Army’ as a political force in the late 1640s. This essay seeks to draw connections between two different ways of analysing ‘indemnity’, as a practical political issue and as something that raised theoretical and constitutional questions, and builds upon scholarship regarding the need to set soldiers’ concerns within the context of questions about legality, justice, necessity and tyranny. The aim is to stress the importance of placing ‘indemnity’ at the heart of the process by which contemporaries thought about the business of political settlement with the king, of the possibility of bringing him to justice, and of the struggle for the post-war constitution, and to demonstrate that soldiers’ demands regarding indemnity are key to understanding the ideological radicalisation of the army.

in Insolent proceedings
Rethinking public politics in the English Revolution
Editors: Peter Lake and Jason Peacey

These interdisciplinary essays explore new directions in the history of the English Revolution. They are designed to honour Ann Hughes, whose work has transformed scholarship on the mid-seventeenth century, and they are driven by the idea that historians have focused more upon the causes of the revolution than upon its course and consequences. In developing various strands of Hughes’ work, contributors address the transformative effects of political and religious upheaval during the 1640s and 1650s, and revise our understanding of ‘public politics’, in terms of the practices, debates, and communicative strategies associated with the ‘print revolution’, with polemic, and with the mobilisation of opinion. Crucially, these practices and debates are shown to have taken place in the public domain, in front of, but also with the involvement of, various overlapping and intersecting publics, right across the country. Examining these phenomena provides fresh perspectives on political and religious radicalism, from canonical authors to sectarian activists, as well as on relations between ‘centre’ and ‘locality’, and on connections between ideological endeavour and everyday politics. In bridging the divide between ‘elite’ and ‘popular’ politics, moreover, the essays also develop new approaches to participation, by soldiers and members of the parliamentarian army, by ordinary Londoners, and by provincial parishioners. Critically, they also analyse the involvement, agency, and treatment of women, from all walks of life, and in both activism and debate. Collectively, the essays rethink both the dynamic and the consequences of the revolutionary decades.

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Corruption and the reform of public life in modern Britain
Ian Cawood and Tom Crook

This introductory chapter sets out the aims of the volume and how it develops and challenges an existing body of work on the history of corruption and public life in modern Britain. Broadly speaking, it proceeds in two parts and is designed to help readers new to the subject negotiate what has become a complex field of study and historiography. The first part introduces readers to the concept of corruption and provides a brief survey of how the term has been used in British public life from the early modern period through to the modern period covered by the book. Critiquing recent literature on this subject, it argues that although ‘corruption’ underwent a process of conceptual and regulatory refinement after roughly 1800, it remained highly politicised, reflecting the persistence of different ways of understanding the public good. The second part introduces readers to the key elements of British public life traversed in the chapters that follow and is more straightforwardly historical. These elements are the central administrative state; the civic realm of elections and municipal government; and, finally, the party-political domain of ministers, MPs and parliament.

in The many lives of corruption
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Rethinking public politics in the English Revolution
Peter Lake and Jason Peacey

This chapter offers a substantial historiographical introduction, reflecting upon the debates of the last fifty years, upon the ‘fate’ of the English Revolution, and upon the possibilities for reasserting the significance of the events of the 1640s and early 1650s, not least in response to ‘revisionist’ scholarship. Arguing that responses to the revisionist challenge have in many ways been less robust regarding the ‘course’ – as opposed to the ‘causes’ – of the civil wars, it builds upon the most important recent work in the field – much of it by contributors to this volume – by highlighting the need to analyse the conduct and content of ‘public politics’, as revealed in and transformed by developments in print culture. This makes it possible to reflect not just upon issues like ‘mobilisation’ and the ‘creativity’ of contemporary politics, but also to revisit issues like localism and radicalism, and to reconfigure our appreciation of the dynamic processes of contemporary debates. In other words, while the chapters are informed by analysis of print culture, they seek to integrate print culture into different aspects of public life, in order to rethink the fissures and fault lines within contemporary society, and to reframe how these affected political and religious change. Finally, the introduction sets such work in the context of, and in dialogue with, the work of Ann Hughes, in whose honour the volume has been produced.

in Insolent proceedings
John Walter

This chapter re-visits the handful of puzzling episodes in which officers were murdered by troops enrolled to fight the Scots in 1640–1. Bringing new evidence to their study and exploring the micro-politics of each episode, the chapter sets these incidents within the context of what it argues was a more general level of violence triggered by the mustering of often recalcitrant troops. In offering a thick description of the performative violence with which the officers were killed, the paper challenges existing explanations for the killings. Exceptional as these episodes were, an attention to what was said and done suggests that they can provide valuable evidence of more widely held beliefs (about religion, politics, honour and masculinity) which challenges not only existing explanations but also a continuing tendency to reproduce contemporary (and elitist) judgements about an apolitical people.

in Insolent proceedings
The reform of public life in modern Britain, 1750–1950
Editors: Ian Cawood and Tom Crook

The many lives of corruption begins the task of piecing together the bigger picture of how corruption has undermined public life in modern Britain. It offers a uniquely expansive perspective, which stretches from the Old Corruption and ‘unreformed’ politics of the eighteenth century through to the mass democracy and welfare state of the twentieth.

Conceptually, as an object of thought, as much as practicably, and as an object of reform, corruption has proved tenaciously problematic and protean. This volume engages with both of these crucial aspects, arguing that it is only by grasping them together that we can fully understand how corruption has shaped the making of a democratic-capitalist state in Britain and given rise to new ideals of public service. It examines the factors that have facilitated and frustrated anticorruption reforms, as well as the various ways ‘corruption’ has been conceived by historical agents. It does so across a range of different sites – electoral, political and administrative, domestic and colonial – presenting new research on neglected areas of reform, while revisiting well-known scandals and corrupt practices. The many lives of corruption is essential reading for all scholars interested in understanding how the pursuit of purity in British public life has evolved over the past two and a half centuries – and why corruption remains such a pressing issue today.

A conversation
Thomas N. Corns

Although socially and culturally Milton and Winstanley perhaps appear improbable bedfellows, this essay begins by reviewing possible interconnections through the intermediary context of the London radical scene in the mid-1640s. It goes on to consider their contrasting achievements as arguably the most creative and innovative interpreters of the Edenic myth in the early-modern literary tradition. Winstanley’s ‘man called Adam, that disobeyed about 6000 years ago’ and Milton’s ‘Offspring of heaven and earth, and all earth’s lord’ go head-to-head in a comparative analysis designed to refine our understanding of the heterodoxy of both authors.

in Insolent proceedings