Narratives on Spanish defection during the Revolt in the Low Countries

Defection is a considerably neglected topic in the context of the Dutch Revolt. This chapter concentrates on a selection of narrative fragments on Spanish defectors to the rebel side during the Revolt in the Low Countries. The analysis not only shows the importance of this rather unknown phenomenon, but also addresses the different ways of describing these side-changers. Especially striking is the fact that although Spanish chronicler and military man Alonso Vázquez criticizes all defectors, he does find positive words for some of them in his individual biographical descriptions. One of them, a mulatto soldier, decided to change sides after being the victim of racist comments from within his own army unit. The fact that rebel propaganda produced a strong and lasting image of all Spaniards as cruel and untrustworthy liars did not prevent the presence of Spaniards within the rebel army.

in Early modern war narratives and the Revolt in the Low Countries
Cross-border nobleman Sweder Schele’s (1569–1639) accounts of army commanders during the Revolt in the Low Countries and Thirty Years’ War

This chapter delves into a chronicle produced in the frontier zone between the Low Countries and Germany, written by Sweder Schele. Engaging in the modern field of transregional history and the long-standing tradition of German studies on autobiographical texts of the Revolt, the different layers within Sweder Schele’s chronicle are deconstructed, utilizing the concept of ‘episodic memory’ as defined by Geoffrey Cubitt. As the two parts of the chronicle of Schele have been preserved separately in archives in both Germany and the Netherlands, the subject of this contribution already demonstrates the importance of historical research across borders. Schele wrote the first part of his chronicle while living in the Low Countries and the second part during his time in Germany, which makes him a personal witness and participant of both the Revolt in the Low Countries and the Thirty Years’ War in the Holy Roman Empire.

in Early modern war narratives and the Revolt in the Low Countries
Military correspondence around the Sack of Antwerp (1576)

In this chapter Beatriz Santiago Belmonte looks at one of the most chaotic years of the Revolt. In March 1576, the death of Governor General Luis de Requesens created a power vacuum that would worsen during the following months, leading up to the infamous Sack of Antwerp on 4 November the same year. This chapter proposes opening up the discussion on the Sack of Antwerp by looking at hitherto understudied sources: the letters of the Spanish commanders playing a prominent role in the events. The information conveyed within their letters has a strong episodic character. They saw things differently, but they also saw different things. The power vacuum created a growing disunity between the Spanish commanders and the members of the Council of State that had officially received full authority. Political and military affairs became divided for the first time since the outbreak of the Revolt. The case of the almost forgotten previous Sack of Maastricht on 20 October 1576 moreover enables us to put the events in Antwerp into a broader historical perspective.

in Early modern war narratives and the Revolt in the Low Countries
The politics of Lent in early modern England

In 1538, in the midst of the Reformation in England, Henry VIII decided to provide new Lenten regulations. His intervention which relaxed some of the more stringent dietary prohibitions was not hastened by any religious change of heart but born out of a socio-economic problem – the skyrocketing price of fish during Lent and the consequent starvation of the poor. From hereon in, until the last Lenten proclamation of 1662, the matter of Lent became a battleground of warring economic and regional factions, disruptive religious ideologues, exasperated government officials and parliamentary intervention. Adding to the problem was the widespread evasion of the regulations both by the lower classes priced out of the Lenten market and by the wealthier segment of society able to buy their way out. This chapter traces the changing nature of Lenten proclamations, Privy Council orders and local regulations. In doing so it highlights the inability of the state to enforce its will on a reluctant population despite incessant cajoling, the evolving severity of Lenten punishments, failed attempts to devolve authority to the localities and the clash between the remnants of ‘Popish’ rituals and the new Protestant emphasis on state-sanctioned fast days.

in Connecting centre and locality
Political communication in early modern England

This collection of essays is set up to explore the dynamics of local/national political culture in seventeenth-century Britain, with particular reference to political communication. It examines the degree to which connections were forged between politics in London, Whitehall and Westminster, and politics in the localities, and the patterns and processes that can be recovered. The fundamental goal is to foster a dialogue between two prominent strands within recent historiography, and between the work of social and political historians of the early modern period. Chapters by leading historians of Stuart Britain examine how the state worked to communicate with its people and how local communities, often far from the metropole, opened their own lines of communication with the centre. The volume then is not meant to be an exhaustive study of all forms of political communication but it nevertheless highlights a variety of ways this agenda can be addressed. At present there is ongoing work on subscriptional culture across the nation from petitioning to Protestation, loyal addresses, lobbying and litigation to name but a few. It is hoped that this volume will provide a reminder of the gains to be made by placing political communication at the heart of both social and political history and to provide an impetus for further scholarship.

Central initiatives and local agency in the English civil war

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.

in Connecting centre and locality
Abstract only

This chapter sets up the volume by exploring the historiography relating to the issues that provide its focus: the relationship between ‘centre’ and ‘locality’ in the early modern period, and the role of communication – including both print culture and manuscript transmission – within contemporary society. This involves reflecting on ideas and arguments regarding the ‘county community’, and on how historians have tackled crucial issues like the ‘social depth’ of politics, state formation and developments in parliamentary politics, as well as the print revolution, but it also involves suggesting that social and political historians have only rarely found ways of entering into a productive dialogue with each other on these crucial issues. Finally, it highlights the fruitful ways in which the chapters use explorations of communicative practices in order to rethink not just relations between centre and locality but also the ways in such terms ought to be conceptualised.

in Connecting centre and locality
State building in Cromwellian Ireland

Between 1649 and 1651, Oliver Cromwell and parliamentarian forces invaded and conquered both Ireland and Scotland. In the wake of these conquests, the regime embarked upon a dramatic state building project in both countries, implementing a variety of administrative, legal, educational, religious and commercial initiatives with the aim of integrating the two countries into the new commonwealth. Despite clear orders from Whitehall on how to build this ‘new’ state, English authorities in Scotland and Ireland quickly ran into problems executing these ambitions. This chapter looks at how circumstances on the ground in interregnum Scotland and Ireland affected the implementation of ideas and institutions. The situations in the two countries provide a particularly unique lens through which to see how communication changed from centre to periphery to ‘sub-periphery’. That is, not only did communication flow from London to Dublin and Edinburgh, but, once in receipt of the information, officials in the Irish and Scottish capitals sent the decrees further onwards to administrators in remote corners of the two countries. Needless to say, the end results in places such as Kerry and Orkney frequently deviated from the original parliamentarian vision.

in Connecting centre and locality

While most historians analysing the 1620s have focused on Buckingham’s great expeditions – Mansfelt, Cadiz and the Ile de Re – contemporaries, particularly along the east coast, had their eyes on Dunkirkers, comparatively small Spanish warships then eviscerating English shipping. Indeed between late 1625 and early 1628, these Flemish corsairs captured no fewer than 522 English vessels. Several dozen Parliament-men in 1626 loudly and repeatedly complained about this situation, but aside from periodic bland reassurances, Buckingham apparently did nothing. Yet thanks to Add. MSS 37,816-7, we can see that Buckingham did respond to the complaints. In addition to repositioning naval assets to guard coastal shipping, he repeatedly exhorted his captains to try harder, rewarding those who did and punishing those who did not. He also pressed for the acquisition of small, more manageable warships which had some hope of catching Dunkirkers, and he organised relief schemes for those Britons imprisoned in Flemish jails. Furthermore, he constantly harped on these and many other counter-measures, all in the hope of soothing parliamentary critics. What makes this blizzard of orders so astonishing is that they effectively ended with the parliamentary dissolution.

in Connecting centre and locality

When scholars investigate the spreading of news, print plays a dominant role and if manuscript comes into play at all it is usually in the form of the newsletter. Letters usually take a back seat. This begs the question, what kind of news did people send by the post and what kind of ties did it create between centre and locality? This chapter uses the letters sent to Theophilus Hastings, the 7th Earl of Huntingdon, to answer this question. An inspection of these letters reveals two kinds of news correspondents and two kinds of news that circulated through letters. Hastings received his news from official correspondents, individuals from whom he solicited news and only news, and from family dependants during their travels. However, this conduit for news worked both ways. News from the locality mattered as much as ‘Citie News’. When Hastings travelled to London dependants sent him ‘Countrie News’ or ‘home news’. This type of news is often left unexamined. However, it was just as important for Hastings to be up to date on the politics of the parish as it was for him to know the politics of the nation.

in Connecting centre and locality