This chapter uses the uncontested ‘election’ of the sea captain Sir Francis Stewart in 1627 to explore what voting meant to early modern Englishmen when deferential assent was apparently the only option. The election’s aftermath showed that the sailors tendered their deference in the expectation that the captain would care about them; when their hopes for reciprocity were dashed, they came to suspect that their captain’s eminence had blinded him to their needs. Indeed, Stewart interpreted his men’s expressions of grievances as personal slights and reacted with explosive anger. Two economies of honour thus came into conflict: one expandable and circulatory, in which deference and care were markers of reciprocal esteem, the other zero-sum, in which the status of superiors was bolstered by the humiliation of their inferiors. Stewart was conversant with the first, but shifted into the second when it became clear that the voyage’s rewards would be meagre. For the sailors, the expandable, circulatory model was the only one that offered any satisfaction: when deference became self-abasement, they refused to play along. Taken as a whole, the troubled voyage shows how potent mixtures of material grievances and wounded honour could fuel fighting men’s incendiary challenges to authority.
Twelve friends of the late Mark Kishlansky reconsider the meanings of England’s mid-seventeenth-century revolution. Their essays range widely: from shipboard to urban conflicts; from court sermons to local finances; from debates over hairstyles to debates over the meanings of regicide; from courtrooms to pamphlet wars; and from religious rights to human rights. Taken together, these essays indicate how we might improve our understanding of a turbulent epoch in political history by approaching it more modestly and quietly than historians of recent decades have often done.
Paul D. Halliday, Eleanor Hubbard, and Scott Sowerby
Mark Kishlansky spent his life fascinated with politics. Early in his career, he mapped the rise of ‘adversary politics’ in the 1640s out of what he saw as a previously consensual political culture. He thus became a leading figure associated with ‘revisionism’ in seventeenth-century English history. Over time, Kishlansky’s interests drew him to the cultural history of politics, but he did not take the cultural turn. He operated with a grounding presupposition about humanness: that individuals’ choices matter, and in a monarchical society, no individual’s choices mattered more than the king’s. Taking monarchy seriously was the ultimate expression of Kishlansky’s central commitment: to understand past historical actors on their own terms. Doing so would revolutionise our understanding of politics. The essays in this book aspire to a paradoxical kind of historiographical revolution: one sparked by analytic modesty. As Kishlansky would have wanted it, they address particulars: practices and moments, authors and arguments that indicate the lineaments of revolution. Instead of wrestling with the hoary question of why a revolution happened in the 1640s and 1650s, they speak to how revolution worked. Taken together, they suggest the diversity of interest and ecumenism of method that reflects the state of the field and Mark Kishlansky’s own approaches to political history.