By expanding the geographical scope of the history of violence and war, this volume challenges both Western and state-centric narratives of the decline of violence and its relationship to modernity. It highlights instead similarities across early modernity in terms of representations, legitimations, applications of, and motivations for violence. It seeks to integrate methodologies of the study of violence into the history of war, thereby extending the historical significance of both fields of research. Thirteen case studies outline the myriad ways in which large-scale violence was understood and used by states and non-state actors throughout the early modern period across Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Atlantic, and Europe, demonstrating that it was far more complex than would be suggested by simple narratives of conquest and resistance. Moreover, key features of imperial violence apply equally to large-scale violence within societies. As the authors argue, violence was a continuum, ranging from small-scale, local actions to full-blown war. The latter was privileged legally and increasingly associated with states during early modernity, but its legitimacy was frequently contested and many of its violent forms, such as raiding and destruction of buildings and crops, could be found in activities not officially classed as war.
King James VI of Scotland was known to have had a stormy relationship with the Scottish Presbyterian clergy. Sometime before moving south to become king of England in 1603, so it was said, he happened to hear a sermon by a Presbyterian minister who began railing from the pulpit against king, church and state. Taken aback, James commanded the preacher ‘either to speak sence, or come down’. Unfazed, the preacher ‘saucily’ replied: ‘I say Man, I’le nowther speak sence, nor come downe’.1
This anecdote appears in a manuscript commonplace book held in the collections of the British Library. Little is known about the provenance of the book, except that it dates from the later seventeenth century, but the collector was seemingly writing down things he had heard or read – ‘Apothegms ancient and modern’ he styled them – so we can presume that this tale of King James’s encounter with the Presbyterian cleric was in more general circulation. Some nineteenth- and early twentieth-century historical works related the story as if true (without citing any sources), though they disagreed over whether the sermon had been delivered in Edinburgh or St Andrews and whether the king in question was James VI and I (r. 1567–1625) or James VII and II (r. 1685–88). One confidently named the preacher as the Edinburgh minister Robert Bruce (1554–1631).2 What we can say for certain is that our commonplacer was in the business of collecting things he found amusing. On the page immediately preceding the anecdote about King James he wrote of ‘a certain Man that was exceeding fat, and corpulent, yet alwayes rode upon a very leane Horse’; when people ‘ask’d him the reason thereof’, he explained this was because ‘he fed himself, but trusted others to feed his horse’.3 Thus the story about King James and the preacher was clearly a joke, though a joke that might have been based on an event that had actually happened. It was at a certain level a joke at the expense of the Scots, as the mocking of the Scottish accent makes clear,4 and it embodies a stereotype of the Scots, or rather of a particular type of Scottish clergyman. The stereotype reflects a prejudice, suggesting as it does that English people tended to prejudge people based on their accent.
However, the joke is more particularly anti-Scottish Presbyterian than it is anti-Scottish. The Scottish Presbyterians, who had rebelled against the new prayer book imposed on the Scottish Kirk in 1637, were widely blamed by the English in the later seventeenth century for having caused the Civil War that broke out in 1642 and led ultimately to the downfall of Charles I. Allegations of refusing to respect royal authority could equally well be made against the English puritans, and indeed were. The joke, we might suggest, relies on an English royalist association of a particular strand of Protestant religiosity with hostility towards monarchy. The joke arguably tells us less about English attitudes towards the Scots than it does about the political and religious anxieties of the era, with humour serving as a form of anxiety displacement – though the joke does not work unless you can read the minister’s remark in a Scottish accent. Moreover, if the joke is in some respects anti-Scottish, James VI and I himself was a Scotsman, and was sometimes satirised by English critics for the thickness of his Scottish accent. It was, of course, perfectly possible to express contempt for Scottishness and at the same time support particular individuals who were Scottish. Later in the century, for instance, the republican poet John Ayloffe became so disillusioned with the restored Stuarts, whom he denigrated as ‘this stinking Scottish brood’, that he joined the rebellion in Scotland led by the Scottish Earl of Argyll against the newly crowned James VII and II in 1685.5 Scotophobia in seventeenth-century England was clearly more complex than a straightforward and undiscriminating antipathy to all those who hailed from Scotland. Yet to offer such reflections is perhaps to over-intellectualise. The story about King James and the Presbyterian minister was just a joke, after all. On the previous page our commonplacer recorded a witty anecdote at James VI and I’s expense: ‘King James was a Prince, that allwayes esteem’d Soldiers the Worst of Men, and the most formidable to his Person; for when a certain Lord newly come from the Warrs abroad, desir’d the honor to Kiss his Majesties hands, the King told him, That he fear’d he would bite it, and therefore bad that he should be mufled’.6
It has long been recognised that human beings have a propensity to stereotype – to develop oversimplified ideas of the characteristics which typify a person or a group – because of the way they categorise in order to make comprehensible the complexities of their world.7 Stereotypes are often negative, but not invariably so; there can be positive stereotypes, and stereotypes that carry a mixture of negative and positive connotations. It is particularly common to stereotype those who are seen as being in some way outsiders to a group or society. The early modern English certainly tended to stereotype foreign nationals. Take these observations recorded in a commonplace book from c. 1669–77: ‘The French loves every where/The Spaniard loves well/Itallian knows whoome to love/The German knowse not how to love’.8 Or these from a commonplace book from the late 1650s: ‘The German tongue is fit to command, the Italian to make Love, the French to buy and sell, and the Spanish to move mercy’.9 The English thought character and temperament were shaped not just by nationhood, but also by climate. This same commonplacer recorded the view that ‘[t]he Northern man being hot within’, because living in a colder climate, was ‘more courageous, taller and stronger than the southern, whose inward heat’ was ‘drawn out and dispersed into the outward part by the fervent heat of the sun’, making the southern man ‘lesse able (though more sensuall) to the act of generation than the northern man’.10 Yet the seventeenth-century English stereotyped a whole range of out-groups, not just foreigners or those who lived overseas, but also those who were seen in various ways as outsiders within English society: from various types of religious nonconformist (Catholics, puritans, Protestant dissenters) through to marginalised groups such as suspected witches, vagrants and the poor.
We have a considerable body of scholarship on English prejudice towards and stereotyping of foreigners and religious minorities in the early modern period. Indeed, it is virtually impossible to write about the political upheavals of seventeenth-century England without addressing in some way the issues of religious and national stereotyping and prejudice. We are deeply familiar with how, at moments of political crisis in the seventeenth century, rival polemicists sought to exploit popular fears and prejudices in an effort to mobilise mass support for a given cause: one thinks of the work on anti-Catholicism and anti-puritanism on the eve of the English Civil War, or on anti-popery and Francophobia during the Exclusion Crisis, though we also have much valuable scholarship on English attitudes towards the Irish, Scots, Welsh, Dutch, the Jews and the Turks.11 These are themes I have explored extensively in my own research.12 Here I want to stand back from my own work and that of others and offer some more general reflections on stereotyping and prejudice in early modern England. I shall start by raising some broader conceptual and methodological questions. What is the relationship between stereotyping and prejudice? Are stereotypes purely projections, or do the stereotyped influence the stereotype in some way? And how do we study stereotyping and prejudice historically: what do the sources at our disposal actually tell us, can they be taken at face value and how do we handle humour and jokes when the author may or may not have been trying to be serious? We shall see that our sources rarely offer straightforward reflections of given stereotypes and prejudices; more often they are works of polemic designed to exploit existing stereotypes and latent prejudices in an effort to mobilise opinion behind a particular agenda.13 I shall then proceed to examine how seventeenth-century controversialists and polemicists sought to harness and manipulate popular stereotypes and prejudices for partisan ends, focusing in particular on Scotophobia, anti-puritanism and anti-popery. We shall learn that these phobias were not straightforward prejudices but in fact multivalent and complex cultural phenomena. They were rarely unambiguous, and were frequently contested, capable of being used for radically different ideological purposes at different times and even competing ideological purposes at the same time.
Conceptual and methodological issues
Stereotyping invariably involves prejudgement based on the stereotype. Thus stereotyping and prejudice are clearly related – but in what way, precisely? For instance, an antipathy towards Catholicism was widespread in seventeenth-century England, and this ‘prejudice’ (if that is what it was) was based to a certain extent on stereotyping: that all Catholics were at heart traitors and rebels and that Catholicism was a superstitious, idolatrous and persecuting religion which upheld tyranny in the state. However, different types of Protestant could be anti-Catholic in different ways – and their anti-Catholicism might lead them to very different political and religious viewpoints. In short, English Protestants who were prejudiced against Catholics were not all responding to the same stereotype. Yet was anti-Catholicism in early modern England really a prejudice? Was it an irrational fear and hatred either of Roman Catholics or the Roman Catholic religion? Or was it a reasoned, even intellectualised, condemnation of what Protestants took to be a politically dangerous, false religion, and in that respect a reflection of distinctive political and religious values – in short, a species of ideology?14 The issue becomes even more complicated once we remind ourselves that the real concern for the seventeenth-century English was popery. Anti-popery and anti-Catholicism did overlap, but they were distinct. In fact, it surely makes sense to see anti-popery as both a prejudice and an ideology. We might even say it was several discrete ideologies. It was based on both irrational fears and prejudices, as well as being an intellectualised position. The ideology was so powerful precisely because it appealed to the emotions.15
It is a commonplace that stereotypes tell us more about those doing the stereotyping than about the stereotyped. At the same time, the stereotype must have some credible link to reality – or, at least, must be an intelligible way of representing the stigmatised other within a given culture – otherwise the stereotype could never take hold in the first place. The stereotyped inevitably shape the stereotype to some degree: by how they act in real life or react to being stereotyped (and whether their reactions serve to mitigate or reinforce the stereotype). The degree to which the stereotyped might shape the stereotype can thus be related to the extent to which the stereotyped is a known or an unknown entity. Is a stigmatised out-group feared because people feel they know what they are like? Or is the fear purely a projection, a fear of what society imagines the unknown other to be like? Most people in seventeenth-century England would have encountered actual Catholics, puritans or Quakers. They were likely also to have encountered Scottish, Welsh and Irish people. The nature of that encounter could vary in intensity and in significance from place to place and over time. There were pockets of the country with untypically high concentrations of Catholics: the area around St Giles-in-the-Fields in London, for example, or parts of Lancashire in the north-west. There were other parts of the country where one would be far less likely to encounter an actual Catholic.16 Many who lived in the north-east of England would have been deeply familiar with the Scots, but people’s experience there of the Scots would be different in the 1630s, when the Scots remained north of the border (by and large), in 1640, when the Scots captured Newcastle upon Tyne following victory against Charles I in the second Bishops’ War, or during the mid-1640s, when Scottish forces were waging a military campaign in the north in alliance with the English Parliament against Charles I. By contrast, most English people were unlikely ever to have seen an actual Jew or Turk, though Londoners might have done in the later seventeenth century.17
However, this issue is more complicated than it might seem. People who did not know real Scots or real puritans, say, could be ‘taught’ to fear what Scots or puritans were represented as being. People could get on well with their actual Catholic neighbours but nevertheless despise what they thought popery stood for. What Londoners thought of Irishmen in their midst could be vastly different from their view of the unknown, ethnically different (Gaelic) Irishmen in Ireland.18
Social psychologists have observed that stereotypes and prejudices often emerge out of the need ‘to construct, maintain, and defend specific self-images and to avoid the aversive feelings that could result from threats to the self’, thus leading to the projection of threatening or undesirable attributes onto other individuals or groups – another form of anxiety displacement.19 In seventeenth-century England it was common to stigmatise hated out-groups by alleging that they were guilty of violating society’s moral norms. Yet this phenomenon also highlights the difficulties in trying to draw distinctions between the ‘known’ and the ‘unknown’ other. It did not matter what puritans, for instance, were really like, or whether you did know real puritans, because the stereotype is a projection – it is about an imagined other – and people might embrace the projection, even of groups with whom they were familiar. They might see in real-life puritans the personality traits which the stereotype had taught them to perceive.20 The presence of the stereotyped in one’s midst could certainly affect the psychodynamic of stereotyping. Some people might come to recognise that real puritans were not as they were represented. The more familiar, or closer to home, the stereotyped out-group was, the greater the likelihood that this stereotype might be effectively contested. Yet sometimes the activity of real puritans might seem to offer confirmation that they really were as they were imagined.21
What we can say with confidence is that stereotyping in seventeenth-century England – and distancing from the stigmatised other – did not function to promote social or national cohesion. It did not serve to promote a sense among the people of England that they were all English (not Scottish, Welsh, Irish or European), and all Protestant (not Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim), and thus united. Even the most cursory look at how stereotypes were articulated and mobilised in this culture shows that stereotyping divided the English among themselves.
So how do we study this phenomenon historically? We have no shortage of sources across a variety of media (printed, manuscript, visual and performative) reflecting on religious and national stereotyping and prejudice in seventeenth-century England: treatises, pamphlets, newspapers and mock travel literature; handwritten libels, rhymes, poems and verse songs; graphic satire; sermons, speeches and alehouse talk; stage plays; riots and demonstrations; even street theatre and pageantry. Can we approach this material as social psychologists would, and endeavour to deconstruct a given stereotype or prejudice into core versus peripheral concepts, identifying those that remained constant over time and distinguishing those that were mutable, dropped in and out of focus, or waxed and waned in significance? To a certain extent we can, and we should. There were certain core elements to the anti-puritan stereotype that were repeated over and over again: puritans were consistently seen as proud, hypocritical, ignorant, uncharitable, gluttonous, dissembling, given to acts of sexual indiscretion, disrespectful of authority and a divisive presence in local communities.22 Central to anti-Catholicism was the view that the Catholic faith encouraged superstition, idolatry, treachery and rebellion. We could likewise identify, perhaps, core elements in the stereotyping of national groups: the French, Spanish, Scottish, Welsh or Irish.
Yet a difficulty lies in the fact that our historical sources are not equivalent to the types of survey, questionnaire or observational situation that social psychologists can deploy or replicate. Much of the material we have from the seventeenth century was polemic or propaganda, produced with the intention of shaping or swaying opinion, and thus of creating a prejudice rather than reporting it. In representing the threat of Catholicism or popery in a particular way, polemicists necessarily had to appeal to people’s prejudices and assumptions, and what they said or wrote must to some degree have reflected what people believed. Yet propagandists often sought to appeal to prejudices and assumptions in such a way as to redirect them in the service of a particular cause. The challenge for the historian, then, is determining the extent to which a given work of polemic reflected existing core beliefs or instead what the polemicist hoped he could persuade people to believe.23 Insofar as the polemic proved persuasive, the polemicist would inevitably shape the stereotype; he or she might also reshape it by highlighting certain elements that before were only peripheral and making them central to the core, or by adding further elements and in the process helping to develop new stereotypes – as Peter Lake and Koji Yamamoto illustrate in chapters 2 and 4 on stereotypes of the puritan and the projector below. The problem is that in seventeenth-century England this process of production, reproduction, contestation and redefinition was going on all the time.
A further difficulty relates to how to read tone and intent in sources that were produced over three centuries ago. Some of our material appears fairly straightforward. Take, for instance, this report of an Anglican sermon delivered in 1681, in which the cleric describes Catholicism as ‘that silly, that foolish, that cruell Religion, a Religion which changes soe many of its professors into blood sucking leeches … a Religion that joys in murthers by retayle’.24 It seems clear where our cleric stood, and he was likely to have been saying the types of thing his congregation were used to hearing and probably believed themselves. However, how do we treat sources that were intended to be funny? Humour might serve a number of functions. One would be to enhance the appeal of a particular work, reinforcing (or redirecting or even creating) a stereotype as people were having a good laugh.25 Humour could be a form of anxiety displacement, a coping mechanism in a society under intense stress, or ‘displaced or sublimated aggression’.26 Sometimes humour could be merely frivolous and light-hearted, albeit nevertheless building upon – and thus shedding insight into – a widely held prejudice. ‘A man being asked what was the Church of Rome like’, records one jestbook from 1685, answered, ‘I think her as like my Wife as any thing … she commands what she pleases without regard of either God or man, and then curses all the Family to Hell if they give not present Obedience’.27 At other times humorous works could be making deadly serious points: one thinks of the visual satires directed against Archbishop Laud in 1641, calling for the Archbishop’s execution, or royalist anti-puritan polemic of 1641–2, as the nation was dividing to go to war – much of which material was also quite funny (and intentionally so).28
Yet knowing how to read the humour present in our sources is not as straightforward as we might imagine. Humour does not always translate across cultures (even cultures that share the same language) and tone does not always come across in writing (especially when being read hundreds of years later). Is there a risk that we can misread some of the stereotyping we encounter? For instance, Owen Felltham’s Brief character of the Low Countries of 1652, a popular work that went through several editions, indulges in some vicious anti-Dutch stereotyping for sixty pages: their country was ‘the buttock of the World, full of veines and bloud, but no bones in’t’; you could not walk down the road in the Low Countries ‘without the hazard of drowning’; ‘[t]he people are generally Boorish’; ‘[y]ou may sooner convert a Jew, than make an ordinary Dutch-man yield to Arguments that cross him’; ‘the Scythian-Bear could nere have been more savage’ – it goes on and on. However, Felltham had written the work much earlier (probably in the mid- to late 1620s), and although it did circulate in manuscript Felltham regarded it ‘among his puerilia’, a ‘piece too light for a prudential man to publish’, and based on limited observations, given that he had only been in the Low Countries for three weeks. The first part of the work was merely ‘joculary and sportive’, but because the latter part, which was serious, went on to praise the Dutch for being an industrious, chaste, valiant, virtuous and diligent people, Felltham and his publisher thought the characterisation of the Dutch was in ‘no way injurious to the people’.29 Doubtless Felltham was trying to engage readers by offering them both utility and delight. He might also have been using humour as anxiety displacement, minimising the threat that the positive accomplishments of the Dutch might be perceived to represent by poking fun at the people first. Having said that, the work nevertheless does reflect and perpetuate a stereotype. Moreover, it first appeared in print at the time of the first Anglo-Dutch War (1652–4) and was reprinted, under a new title Batavia; or, the Hollander display’d, in 1672, the year of the outbreak of the third Anglo-Dutch War (1672–4), so the text was subsequently appropriated in support of the foreign policy objectives of the Republic and the restored monarchy.30
There was a tradition in early modern England of writing mock travel narratives in which, while relating his travels, the author would set out to say as many humorous things as possible about the country he was visiting and its inhabitants. The way countries and their people were satirised in such works was often remarkably similar: there would be jokes about the physical landscape (urban and rural), climate, food, people (men and women) and culture. Sometimes the satire could be geographically specific. For instance, in its section on Scotland The comical pilgrim of 1722, a classic of the genre, highlighted the problems Edinburgh had with sanitation, with its multistorey residences built on a hill: ‘such a Place of Nastiness was not to be found upon Earth’, the author bemoaned, ‘having a Dung-Tub at the Head of every Pair of Stairs in their Houses, which are 14 or 15 low Stories high’, which were ‘emptied a-nights on Peoples Heads without any respect of Persons’, so that the whole city was ‘scented with the excellent Perfume of Scotch Civit Cats’. However, often the insults were generic. Foreign food is terrible. Foreign women are all whores. ‘Here is every Day an Autumn among the Women’ in Scotland, our Comical pilgrim opined, since ‘for a Noggin of Brandy they will fall as thick on their Backs as the Leaves in St James’s Park do in September’. He also believed it was doubtful there was ‘any such Thing’ as a virgin in Ireland ‘after she’s in the Teens’.31 The satire here is formulaic. It is questionable how much it really tells us about what English people genuinely thought about the national types being satirised. (One might even argue that the satire was directed in part against the English, mocking the way they stereotyped others.)32 We often find exactly the same joke being made about different peoples: a joke about a Welshman elsewhere becoming a joke about ‘an ignorant country fellow’, or a joke at the expense of the Irish elsewhere being related as a joke about the Welsh.33 In such instances, otherness is invoked simply as a device to set up the joke.
So how do we read the famous satire attributed to Sir Anthony Weldon, supposedly penned when Weldon accompanied King James VI and I on his progress to Scotland in 1617? Scotland, we are told, was a country
too good for them that possesse it and too bad for others to be at charge to conquer it; the ayre might be wholesome but for the stinckinge people that inhabit it; the ground might be more fruitfull had they the wit to manure it; the beasts are generally small (women onely excepted) of which sort there are none greater in the World. There is greate store of fowle as fowle houses, fowle linnen, fowle potts and dishes, fowle trenchers and napkins, fowle sheetes and shirts …34
Seventeenth-century Englishmen seemingly found this hilarious. The tract was already in its fourth edition by 1626 and was regularly republished over the course of the century. We find it copied out in a number of commonplace books.35 A version of it was appended to Felltham’s Batavia of 1672. Other writers stole the joke, as did our Comical pilgrim of 1722.36 Yet although the joke seems specific to Scotland, it could also work for Ireland. The author of Mercurius Hibernicus of 1645, after having spoken of the plentiful rivers and abundance of fish, fowl and beasts in Ireland (which the natives were not putting to good use), later realised he had missed a punning opportunity and wrote: ‘I told you before that they had a great store of foule and beasts, for so they have, for there is foul Dishes, foule Vessels, foule Houses, foule Linnen, and foule Sowes; but the beasts are generally small, the Women excepted’.37 The wide circulation of Weldon’s joke clearly lent English people a framework for thinking about Scotland and the Scots, and perhaps also points to the way that English people predisposed to a negative view might have thought about their neighbours to the north. Yet the fact that the joke proved transferable meant that it could also lend the English a framework for thinking about other countries they regarded as backward. Thus deciphering precisely what the joke reveals about English attitudes towards Scotland and the Scots is not as straightforward as we might imagine. A closer reading of Weldon’s tract, in fact, suggests that the real bite of the work was its attack on Scottish Presbyterianism.
Besides, Weldon’s was not the only view of the country of Scotland prevalent at the time. John Speed produced a more favourable description of Scotland in his atlas The theatre of the empire of Great Britain of 1623, which went through numerous editions and appeared in an abridged edition in 1627. Speed described Scotland as ‘faire and spacious’, ‘furnished with all things befitting a famous Kingdome; both for Ayre and Soyle, Rivers, Woods, Mountaines, Fish, Fowle, and Cattle, and Corne so plenteous, that is supplyeth therewith other Countryes in their want’; he thought ‘the people’ there ‘of good feature, strong of body, and of courageous minde, and in warres so venturous’.38 One might suggest that satires like Weldon’s worked because they were satirising familiar positive representations, or at least because they were satirising the genre in which positive representations had appeared.39
Multivocal representations and false composites
Our sources, then, are problematic and need to be interpreted carefully. Historians cannot approach their material in quite the way that social psychologists analyse their data, but then our enterprises are different. What might appear to be problems with the sources are, for historians, their strength. It is the very ambiguity and complexity of the sources that enable us to generate meaningful historical insight. They reveal that the stereotypes and prejudices we are examining were in fact multivalent and multivocal representations, reflecting to a certain extent attitudes and assumptions that were embedded in popular culture, but also the agendas of polemicists and controversialists who were seeking to mobilise them and to redirect them. Even mere jokes can reveal latent attitudes and assumptions – attitudes that might not have been particularly discriminating (in the sense that the same prejudice could easily shift from one group to another), but which could be capable of becoming quite powerful once mobilised, especially at times of heightened stress or politico-religious crisis. Our sources further show that attitudes and assumptions about foreigners or religious minorities were continually contested. And although we are dealing in part with stereotypes and prejudices that could remain fairly stable, even though contested – the stereotype of the puritan, for instance, persisted for quite some time even though not all would have embraced it – we are once again reminded that we are dealing with much more: with articulations of particular political and religious positions and beliefs – in short, with ideologies.
Seventeenth-century English representations of foreigners or religious minorities were often compound constructs, not typically a stereotype but rather a cluster of discrete stereotypes, which might come to be blended in varying ways in people’s minds, depending on context. Let us take Scotophobia, for example. There were several types of distinctive Scots stereotype.40 There were the ancient inhabitants of Scotland, seen as barbarous and uncivilised, who were even alleged to have practiced cannibalism.41 Then there were the Highlanders – supposedly the descendants of the ancient Scots – who spoke the Irish language, wore Irish apparel and were ‘rude and unruly’. These were a people quite distinct from the Lowlanders, who used ‘the English language and apparaill’ and who were thought to be ‘more civil’.42 The stereotype of the Highlander was embraced by Lowland Scots: James VI and I, for instance, thought the Highlanders of the Isles ‘alluterly barbares, without any sort or shew of civilitie’.43 However, there was also an image of the Scots in general, that is, the inhabitants of the political entity that was Scotland, foreign nationals who prior to 1603 had often been at war with the English – an enemy other, still not to be trusted, whether Highlanders or Lowlanders. In the eyes of the English, the Scots’ national character was shaped by the fact that they lived in an economically impoverished country with a cold climate. Antipathy towards Lowland Scots increased following the union of the crowns in 1603 as James VI and I brought a number of his countrypeople with him to London and gave them titles and places at court. Hence emerged the English stereotype of the ‘beggarly Scot’.44 Furthermore, following the Reformation in Scotland, which had been forged in opposition to the Crown rather than by it (as had been the Reformation in England), there emerged the image of the Scot as a Presbyterian (again, overwhelmingly Lowland Scots) and all which that entailed – a hostility towards the English episcopalian system of ecclesiastical government and support for resistance theory. This image of Scottish Presbyterians became even more firmly entrenched as a result of the political and religious upheavals of the seventeenth century, when the first to resist the Stuarts were the Scottish Covenanters.45 Along with these various negative stereotypes, the English also embraced positive stereotypes of the Scots, as being brave and hardy, and thus valiant soldiers,46 although of course such characteristics in the inhabitants of a potentially hostile neighbouring country could be sources of fear rather than admiration.
Social psychologists style the tendency to harbour different, and at times contradictory, modes of thinking about the same issue cognitive polyphasia. Here, of course, I have been talking about a collective – the English, in general – so such contradictions are perhaps to be expected. But it is important to recognise that individuals are also prone to cognitive polyphasia – as David Magliocco explores in Chapter 7 on Samuel Pepys’s quite contrasting attitudes towards the French.47 With regard to Scotophobia, it was not just that different types of English people held different views of the Scots – though they did. It was that an individual’s thinking about the Scots could be logically inconsistent or even muddled.
Certainly the English had a tendency to lump together, in a somewhat indiscriminate manner, all the things they had learned to believe were undesirable about the Scots. In his pro-Union treatise of 1605–7 the Scotsman Sir Thomas Craig noted how ‘[s]o long as the two countries were enemies, nothing that was Scottish ever found favour with our neighbours’, and that the English tended to asperse ‘the Scots as uncivilised, wild, and barbarous’. When he visited England at the time of the Union negotiations, he observed how English children would play at being ‘English and Scots’ in mock fights – rather like children in the twentieth century might have played at cowboys and Indians. One Englishman told Craig that the reason why the English had never conquered Scotland was because Scotland ‘was of too little worth to tempt England to retain’, and that Scotland ‘owed her security solely to her cold climate, her poverty, mountains, and bogs’. When attending a service at St Paul’s Cathedral, Craig was treated to a ‘wild and virulent sermon’ condemning the Scots as ‘poor, lying, and prone to all manner of treachery’.48
Indeed, there was a tendency for the English to blur or conflate discrete stereotypes of the Scots, leading to the creation of a false composite – an image of the Scots that drew on stereotypical characteristics supposedly evinced by different types of Scot, but which were never found together in any one Scottish person. Note, for instance, how in June 1639 the English officer Captain Thomas Windebanke wrote a letter to his father explaining how English troops sent to Berwick to fight the Scottish Covenanters at the time of the first Bishops’ War kept their spirits up
with the hopes of rubbing, fubbing, and scrubbing those scurvy, filthy, durty, nasty, lousie, ytchy, scabby, shitten, stinking, slovenly, snotty-nos’d, logger-headed, foolish, insolent, proud, beggerly, impertinent, absurd, grout-headed, vilainous, barbarous, bestiall, false, lying, rogueish, divelish, long-ear’d, short-hair’d, damnable, Atheisticall, puritanical Crue of the Scotch Covenant.49
Or note, too, how a verse satire from that same year mocked the Scots’ claim to be fighting a ‘holy war’, since ‘Religion all the world can tell/Amongst High-landers ne’re did dwell’.50 In such remarks we see images of the Scots as barbaric and uncivilised, Highlanders, foreign nationals, enemy others and Presbyterians all blurred into one, a composite affixed also to Scots who would have been Lowlanders. The label ‘Scot’, in other words, possessed broad resonances, with the potential to invoke in the mind of someone predisposed to be hostile towards the Scots a cluster of negative associations about the peoples of Scotland. It is, of course, difficult to demonstrate a hidden subtext empirically, though Windebanke’s letter perhaps provides an example of someone making explicit what was often a buried implication. The fact that royalist polemicists sometimes qualified their Scotophobic diatribes by insisting that they were thinking of only certain types of Scot – the ‘perfidious’ ones – and pretended to chastise the rashness of those ‘fools’ who would ‘lay the blame upon the Nation totall’, further suggests that contemporaries recognised the broader resonances that the negative stereotype of the Scot had the potential to carry.51
The construction of false composites is quite common in stereotyping: it can be found also in representations of the immigrant, for example.52 What we have noted with regard to Scotophobia might be thought of as the ‘everything bar the kitchen sink’ approach: while condemning the Scots, one might as well invoke all the negative stereotypes one could think of. Yet discrete stereotypes could also be conflated more tactically, for instance by polemicists deliberately seeking to make it seem as if the undesirable traits associated with a particular subgroup applied to a broader group of people who were being targeted for attack.
Anti-puritanism is here a case in point. As noted above, there was a generalised negative stereotype of the puritan as hypocritical, proud, gluttonous, unchaste and uncharitable, which made the puritan appear contemptible and ridiculous but not necessarily the object of fear. More threatening were the radical puritans, the separatists. However, the potential for slippage was always present, since the separatist was a type of puritan, and the stigmatisation of the separatist could easily encourage the view that all puritans were equally bad. In the late 1580s, for instance, the canon of Westminster Richard Bancroft (later Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury) deliberately sought to tar Presbyterians and separatists with the same brush in his propaganda war with ‘Martin Marprelate’ and the English Presbyterians.53 On the eve of the Civil War, supporters of Charles I sought to build up support for the Crown by exploiting fears of radical sectarians, whom they represented as a threat to the rule of law, the social hierarchy and gender norms. At the same time, they deliberately blurred the distinction between separatists and moderate puritans. Typical in this regard was John Harris’s The puritanes impuritie: or, the anatomie of a puritane or seperatist of 1641, which spoke of ‘these Seperatists alias Puritanes’.54 Yet moderate puritans were equally alarmed about the rise of the sects in 1641–2: Henry Parker styled separatists ‘the dregges of the vilest and most ignorant rabble’; Edward Reynolds accused them of falling ‘into the phrenzie of Schisme and prophanenesse’.55 This was why the anti-sectarian card was such a powerful one for supporters of Charles I to play, since it had the potential to appeal to the moderate middle ground and thus to dislodge people from their previous support for Parliament’s reformist agenda. All puritans were damned by association.
Mobilising and contesting stereotypes
As these last remarks indicate, political and religious polemicists often sought to exploit latent prejudices and preconceptions in order to mobilise support for a particular cause. It was a tactic that could prove extremely effective: note the efforts of the Whigs to rally support for their campaign to exclude the Catholic heir from the succession during the Exclusion Crisis, which initially met with considerable success. Yet such attempted mobilisations rarely went uncontested – as indeed they were not during the Exclusion Crisis.56 In studying stereotyping we must also pay close critical attention to the various responses to such stereotyping, therefore. People did not always buy into the polemic: they did not necessarily believe of the stigmatised out-group what propagandists and polemicists urged them to believe. Furthermore, rival propagandists and polemicists often sought to construct competing representations, in order either to negate popular antipathy towards a stigmatised out-group or to channel such antipathy to the service of an alternative politico-religious agenda.
By way of illustration, let me start by returning to Scotophobia. Many English people simply did not embrace the negative view of the Scots propagated by supporters of the government in 1638–40, either because they were so disillusioned with the religious and political policies of the Caroline regime that they were willing to support anyone who could mount an effective challenge to it (my enemy’s enemy is my friend), or because they positively identified with the reforming agenda of the Scottish Covenanters. The Northamptonshire puritan lawyer Robert Woodford saw the Scottish revolt as divine judgement upon the English nation and repeatedly expressed his support for the Scots’ efforts to carry out ‘the worke of reformacon’.57 Others saw the Scots as delivering England from ‘the persecuting Arch-bishop’.58 The parliamentarian reformers of 1640–2 were strong supporters of the Scots, and brought the Scots into the war against Charles I in 1643 with the Solemn League and Covenant.
Yet how people in England felt about the Scots at any given time or in any given place was affected by changing circumstances and realities on the ground. In the political crisis of 1640, it was easy to welcome the Scots as deliverers, especially in the more southern parts of England, but even initially in the north-east, which the Scots occupied following the defeat they inflicted on Charles I’s forces at the battle of Newburn in August 1640. During the Civil War, however, depredations by Scottish troops in the north of England caused many in that area to turn against the Scots.59 Anti-Scottishness became a key defining feature of royalism during the first Civil War.60 However royalist authors, while denigrating the Scots in general terms as a people, often qualified their remarks, as mentioned above, by insisting they did not mean all Scots – there were ‘honest men and knaves in every Nation’ – but only those who were rebels against Charles I (i.e. the Presbyterians).61 Amongst those who backed Parliament against Charles I, Independents and sectarians disliked the Scottish alliance and the commitment to establish Presbyterianism in England if Parliament won the war, without the liberty of conscience that Independents and separatists so desired. There were Scotophobes, in other words, on both sides during the English Civil War. Scotophobia in England grew more complicated in the late 1640s. Royalists had to modify their views when Charles I allied with the Scots and started the second Civil War in 1648. This in turn resulted in an upsurge of anti-Scottish sentiment amongst supporters of Parliament, especially the Independents, and even more so after 1649 following the Scots’ opposition to the regicide and their decision to declare for Charles II.62 Anti-Scottish polemic from the late 1630s through to the 1650s repeatedly drew on anti-Scottish stereotypes, and the propaganda would not have had the effect it did unless the stereotypes drawn upon were embedded in this culture. Yet it is clear that Scotophobia was not simply a prejudice against the Scots. It was a multifaceted and multivalent ideology. Anti-Scottish polemic was used to articulate distinctive, and differing, politico-religious agendas – agendas that were continually contested by others of a different politico-religious persuasion.
Let me conclude by looking at anti-popery. What popery meant was fiercely contested, with it taking on different meanings for different types of Protestant. As the royalist cleric Edward Symmons put it in 1643, ‘there be more points of Popery then one’; Symmons listed eleven.63 English Protestants, to quote Anthony Milton, were ‘able to deploy multiple modes of anti-Catholic polemic’.64
Anti-popery was built, to a certain extent, upon the stereotyping of a religion: Catholicism was seen as a superstitious, idolatrous and persecuting faith. Yet it was a religion with startling political implications, so far as English Protestants were concerned, since the Catholic church held that the Pope, not the king, was the head of the church and that he could depose heretical rulers, whilst Catholics believed in resistance theory. English Protestants’ views of Catholicism were further shaped by history: the persecution of English Protestants under Mary Tudor (1553–8) and of Protestants on the Continent during the French wars of religion (notably the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in Paris of 1572), the papal bull excommunicating Elizabeth I of 1570 and the various Catholic conspiracies and rebellions during Elizabeth’s reign, the threatened invasion by the Spanish Armada in 1588, the gunpowder plot of 1605, the assassination of Henri IV of France by the fanatical Catholic François Ravaillac in 1610 and the Irish rebellion of 1641. English people were brought up anti-Catholic, and anti-Catholicism was reproduced over the generations through instruction and commemoration.65 Parents might teach their children what to think of Catholicism. Protestant clergymen saw it as their duty to offer guidance to their parishioners about the importance of avoiding the errors of popery. The state introduced annual commemorations for deliverance from Catholic conspiracies, such as the Armada and the gunpowder plot, which were in turn celebrated in the street with bonfires and firework displays.66 Every year on 5 November sermons delivered up and down the land reminded English Protestants that the Catholic religion was ‘Rebellion’ and its practice involved the ‘murthering of soules and bodies’.67 So deeply entrenched in English culture was this stereotype of the Catholic religion and its adherents that it was possible to attack Catholicism obliquely, without mentioning it by name, confident that others would grasp the allusion. For instance, in early 1687, a few months after James II had issued a ban on anti-Catholic preaching, Dr Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, delivered a sermon at Whitehall on the blasphemies, superstitions, perfidy and spirit of the scribes and Pharisees, knowing full well ‘that all the auditory understood his meaning of a parallel between them and the Roman priests’.68
However, this fear of Catholicism tended not to translate into an antipathy towards ordinary, individual Catholics. Although there were quite a few anti-Catholic riots at times of political crisis in the seventeenth century, the targets of these tended to be symbols of the Catholic religion (such as Catholic chapels), foreign Catholics (such as Catholic ambassadors resident in London), or Catholic or crypto-Catholic courtiers who were seen as responsible for unpopular government policies in church and state.69 Even the most stridently anti-Catholic preachers stressed that their ire was directed not against Catholics as people, but against their religion: ‘not the men, but the Errors’.70
Furthermore, the fear of popery was often related to concerns about what other English Protestants were doing. Puritans tended to see popery within the Church of England. Indeed, the term puritan was coined originally to refer those who wanted to purify the established Church of England of all remaining relics of popery, such as the use of the sign of the cross in baptism or kneeling for communion. When Archbishop William Laud in the 1630s urged strict ceremonial conformity to the Book of Common Prayer, beautified the churches with stained glass windows and golden ornaments on the communion table and encouraged churches to place their communion table ‘altar-wise’ at the east end and to rail it in, this was ‘popery’ to many puritans and even mainstream Protestants, even though such Protestants who accused Laud of promoting popery were well aware that the Archbishop was not a Catholic.71
Yet to English Protestants popery also meant refusing to acknowledge the royal supremacy, rebelling against one’s lawful sovereign, resistance theory and seeking to undermine the established Protestant church in England. For this reason, the charge of popery was frequently levelled by defenders of the king and the established church against their puritan and parliamentarian critics – countering a stereotype with another stereotype, in a sense, though one could debate which stereotype came first. Accusing opponents of popery was a tactic pursued by defenders of the Crown from the time of the Covenanter revolt in Scotland of 1638–40 and throughout the 1640s, through the Civil Wars and up to the regicide, in an effort to build up popular support for Charles I – with some, albeit limited, success.72 It was a tactic pursued by Tory supporters of Charles II against the Whigs during the Exclusion Crisis in the late 1670s and early 1680s, with a considerable degree of success, as I have argued extensively in some of my previous work.73 It is also a theme which Adam Morton explores in Chapter 6 below.
Social psychologists have long observed how difficult it is for a propagandist to run counter to people’s deeply held prejudices.74 If the puritans in 1640–1, or the Whigs in 1679–81, had been successful in turning public opinion against the government by playing on people’s fears of popery, it was unlikely to have been an effective counter-strategy for the government simply to insist that the fear of popery was unfounded. What pro-government propagandists chose to do instead was try to appeal to people’s very fears of popery, but in such a way as to redirect these in the service of their cause. Thus the effort to control stereotypes and their meanings led to the escalation, rather than the reduction, of stereotyping – a not uncommon phenomenon, as Lake and Yamamoto note in their Introduction.
It would be wrong to think the Anglican royalist strategy was purely opportunistic, however, or that it was insincere. It was not that the puritans framed a stereotype and Anglican royalists invented an alternative to counter it. Rather, they mobilised an existing stereotype. Accusing puritans of acting on popish principles had been a staple feature of anti-puritan polemic from Elizabethan times onwards. Bancroft had done this in the aftermath of the Marprelate controversy.75 James VI and I frequently compared papists to puritans, accusing both of wanting to make kings but ‘dukes of Venice’.76 Both Lord Chief Justice Heath and Archbishop Laud made the comparison at the Star Chamber trial of the puritan William Prynne in 1634.77 A manuscript satire of 1638 described the puritans as ‘the Jesuits of the English Church’, albeit not genuinely ‘of our Church’, since they were ‘as farre in opinion from the Church of England … as the Papists bee’.78
It was therefore not opportunism when royalist propagandists accused puritans of acting on popish principles in 1641–2: this was something always believed by the types of people who identified with the vision of government in church and state promoted by those who championed the cause of Charles I on the eve of the English Civil War. Furthermore, it was indeed the case that both the Covenanters in Scotland and the puritans and parliamentarians in England, in justifying their forcible resistance to Charles I’s government, utilised arguments that had first been developed by Catholic resistance theorists, and in particular by Jesuits.79 Royalist polemicists of the 1640s made the allegation that the parliamentarian-puritan position was popish time and time and time again. As Sir Robert Filmer succinctly put it, ‘the only point of Popery is the alienating and withdrawing of Subjects from their obedience to their Prince, to raise Sedition and Rebellion’, and so ‘Popery and Popularity agree in this point’.80 The charge of popery against the enemies of Charles I was so widely made that parliamentarian authors found it necessary to try to refute it.81
Within the parliamentarian alliance, different Protestant interests accused each other of popery. Independents accused Presbyterians of popery for persecuting people for their religious beliefs. Presbyterians accused Independents and sectarians of popery for developing king-killing theories and supporting the regicide in 1649. Cavaliers likewise thought Presbyterians, Independents and the sects guilty of popery for the self-same reasons.82 This is why anti-popery was a species of ideology. More accurately, it was several distinct ideologies, reflecting discrete conformist Anglican (episcopalian), puritan, Presbyterian, Independent, sectarian – even separate Baptist and Quaker – religio-political values and agendas.
Once these ideologies became entrenched, they proved particularly robust and resilient. Anti-popery, and the types of argument found in anti-popish polemic, did not change much over the course of the seventeenth century. What changed was the historical context, which structured how relevant, poignant or effective a particular strand of anti-popish polemic was likely to be at any given moment. For example, from the 1670s onwards, with the growing international threat posed by France (which had risen to replace Spain as the dominant Catholic power in Europe) and the prospect of a Catholic heir succeeding to the English Crown – and especially after the revelations of the supposed popish plot in the summer of 1678 – there did again appear to be a genuine threat to the security of the Protestant religion in England. Likewise, as France began to rescind the liberties formally granted to its Protestant inhabitants from the late 1670s and early 1680s, and French Huguenots started arriving in England as they fled persecution in their homeland, the idea that Catholicism was a persecuting religion and therefore that a future Catholic king of England would also probably persecute his Protestants, as had the last Catholic ruler in England Mary Tudor, seemed all the more credible. The specific arguments that the Whigs made against popery in the late 1670s and early 1680s were not in themselves particularly new; it was the context that gave them such powerful purchase at this time.83
The same might be said about the way the Tories sought to turn the charge of popery against the Whigs. Their arguments were not new: they were exactly the same as those developed by supporters of the Crown against the puritans and parliamentarians in the 1640s, although they had not been new then either. What was new in the late 1670s and early 1680s was that what previously had merely been a prediction of what could potentially happen had since come true. The puritans had rebelled against the king, in the 1640s, and they had gone on to destroy the Church of England, execute Charles I and set up a republic. They had achieved everything that the Pope, ever since the Reformation, had tried but failed to achieve. There was thus now a history to which Tories could appeal which made their arguments more compelling, and which helps explain why the Tories were more successful in playing the anti-popery card in the early 1680s than their Cavalier predecessors had been in the 1640s. As one Tory writer complained in 1681, the Whigs ‘under the notion of crying against Popery and Arbitrary Government, would pull down the King and the Bishops, and set up a Common-wealth again’.84 ‘What is term’d Pop’ry?’, asked a Tory rhymester: ‘To Depose a King. What’s true Presbytery? To Act the Thing.’85 ‘The Papists they would Kill the King’, noted a Tory balladeer, ‘but the Fanaticks did’.86 The Tory invocation of this line of anti-popish rhetoric proved remarkably successful, and helped rally public support for the Crown in opposition to Exclusion. The government’s success in turning the charge of popery against the Whigs and nonconformists was not the only reason for the defeat of the Exclusionist movement: there were other dimensions (ideological and political) to the Crown’s efforts to negate the challenge of the Whigs.87 The point to emphasise here, though, is that the power, purchase and persuasiveness of a particular polemical construct, or stereotypical representation, was determined not solely by the stereotype itself, but also crucially by the context in which it was deployed.
This chapter has sought to explore some of the conceptual and methodological problems involved in the analysis of religious and national stereotyping in seventeenth-century England. Although the drive to stereotype, we have been taught, comes from the need to categorise and simplify in order to make sense of a complex world, in fact stereotypes were themselves complex cultural constructions. They were multivalent composites that blended different concepts and even at times discrete stereotypes that may or may not have been internally consistent. Moreover, the sources at our disposal are themselves far from straightforward, and it is not always easy to tell the extent to which they reflect culturally embedded stereotypes or a given author’s ideological agenda. Accounts which, on the surface, seem to reflect what the seventeenth-century English thought of the Scots, puritans or Catholics, say, might be telling us not only what a particular author thought of the Scots, puritans or Catholics, but also what he hoped he could persuade others to believe. Thus, our sources are frequently polemically charged and ideologically laden.
Nor do the stereotypes we have been looking at reveal, in any uncomplicated way, the prejudices of the seventeenth-century English. It is true that contemporaries did prejudge based on existing stereotypes – they saw in stigmatised out-groups behaviours which the stereotype had taught them to perceive. But Scotophobia, anti-puritanism and anti-Catholicism (and anti-popery as well) were also ideologies, reflections of distinctive political and religious outlooks and opinions. How one saw the Scots (or Catholics or puritans) was dependent upon context (temporal and geographical): they could be feared, loved or ignored to varying degrees depending on circumstances. Furthermore, stereotypical representations were frequently contested, precisely because such representations were recognised as being polemically motivated. As we have seen, many in England refused to buy into the negative representation of the Scots by government supporters in 1638–40 because of their own disagreement with the government’s political and religious agenda. The contesting of stereotypes was facilitated by the fact that they were often composites: thus Tories during the Exclusion Crisis could rebut Whig anti-Catholicism by appealing to different aspects of the anti-Catholic stereotype. The seventeenth-century English might well have been prejudiced against foreigners and religious minorities. But a study of national and religious stereotyping – of how polemicists sought to manipulate stereotypes in the service of a particular cause and why they thought doing so was likely to be an effective strategy in mobilising opinion out-of-doors – tells us about so much more than just the prejudices of the English or what they thought of outsiders. As the chapters in this volume variously attest, such a study also tells us what they thought of each other, why they disagreed so much amongst themselves and what was at stake during this century of political and religious upheaval.