This chapter is about how what was unsayable in late sixteenth-century England became sayable by mid-seventeenth-century England. The dynamics of what we might call free speech were worked out in a series of tensions, and sometimes conflicts, between the duty of certain public men to defend the public interest – crudely that of the commonwealth and of true religion – and the constraints placed on who got to talk about such things and where and to whom they got to talk about them. The result was a very restricted circle of persons comprising in secular affairs Privy Counsellors, in practice certain courtiers and favourites, and in ecclesiastical matter the bishops and certain godly leaned clergy, and on some topics, but not on others, Parliament-men. Under the right circumstances, most often those created by actual or perceived crisis and threat, these very restricted ranks of the counsel-giving classes could be expanded. While one should not ignore, or even play down, the contingency of the political events that drove this narrative, one can also surely see a dialectical progression at work here, as acts of free speech, each designed to describe, unmask and denounce various conspiracy-based emergencies, practised by one group or another – by the state and its (either Catholic or Puritan) critics, by various Parliament-men and the defenders of the court, or the Crown, or indeed by the monarch himself, by the opponents or defenders of the Spanish Match – elicited other such acts from their opponents. The result was a series of claims to and outbreaks of ‘free speech’ of increasing frequency, if not intensity. But what this was not was the rise of free speech in anything like the modern sense, since the aim of each of these exercises in parrhesia was to achieve a situation in which certain groups got to speak and certain things got to get said while others most definitely did not.
This piece discusses the individual and collective contribution of the essays in the volume to debates framed by modern scholars on the English Reformation and its impact, a field dominated by Sir Geoffrey Elton and Patrick Collinson; on the origins of the English Civil War, established by the work of Conrad Russell; and on the connections drawn between historiography and political thought or political thinking, a world dominated by J. G. A. Pocock and more recently by the series of studies prompted by the seminal work of Lisa Jardine, Anthony Grafton and Blair Worden.
Robert Skinner explains the ideological underpinnings of the Personal Rule
This chapter uses the court sermons of Robert Skinner, a coming man at court and in the episcopate, to explore the relationship of Arminian theology to the churchmanship and political attitudes of the Personal Rule, and in particular to the virulent anti-puritanism that was so constitutive of Caroline religio-political ideology. It argues that such theology was at the root of the Laudian programme and that Skinner’s sermons, only one of which was printed at the time, give us a privileged insight into the inner workings of the Laudian and Caroline regimes. Through them we can in fact observe those regimes talking to themselves. By taking what we find there seriously we can gain real insight into what Caroline insiders up to and including Laud and Charles I thought they were doing and what true Christianity amounted to.
The ‘penny godlinesses’ of John Andrewes and the problem of ‘popular puritanism’ in early Stuart England
Peter Lake tracks how the size, cost, and format of John Andrewes’s cheap religious pamphlets conditioned their approach to doctrinal content. In doing so, Lake resists the impulse to categorise all cheap print as ‘popular’ and therefore theologically unorthodox. John Andrewes, the so-called ‘market place theologian,’ is shown to struggle with some of the same paradoxes and tensions that motivate William Perkins’ more mainstream protestant writing, undermining false assumptions about the antagonism of popular and orthodox predestinarian religious thought.
This chapter seeks to redate the entry of the anti-puritan stereotype into printed discourse to the early 1580s, in the work of George Gifford. Rather than the work of some hack polemicist replying to Martin Marprelate in the early 1590s, the stereotype first appeared, pretty much fully formed, almost ten years earlier, in the work of a leading puritan divine. The chapter then examines the dialectical exchanges between the godly and their critics that Gifford was seeking to capture in his work, as he sought, in effect, to re-appropriate the term ‘puritan’ for the godly themselves in part by rendering its use an insult, an identifying characteristic of the wicked. The chapter then associates Gifford’s take on the puritan stereotype with his use of the neologism ‘church papist’, using that juxtaposition to address the problem of stereotyping and identity formation in post-Reformation England, and recent work by a range of historians on what one might term the ‘religious condition of England’ problem. The chapter thus essays a novel take on the origins and dynamics of one of the major stereotypes used by contemporaries to make sense of the religio-political scene in post-Reformation England.
This book aims to revisit the county study as a way into understanding the
dynamics of the English civil war during the 1640s. It explores gentry culture
and the extent to which early Stuart Cheshire could be said to be a ‘county
community’. It investigates the responses of the county’s governing elite and
puritan religious establishment to highly polarising interventions by the
central government and Laudian ecclesiastical authorities during Charles I’s
Personal Rule. The second half of the book provides a rich and detailed analysis
of the petitioning movements and side-taking in Cheshire during 1641-42. This
important contribution to understanding the local origins and outbreak of civil
war in England will be of interest to all students and scholars studying the
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.
Rethinking public politics in the English Revolution
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.
This chapter explores the role of dynastic priorities in shaping the gentry’s
ambitions and striving for reputation in local society. It looks at the ways
in which this shaped their social horizons and sense of kinship, as well as
their competition for status.
This chapter explores the sense of identity associated with a sense of
belonging to the ‘imagined community’ of Cheshire. It also investigates what
it meant to be a country gentleman in this period, how encounters with
London and the world of higher education shaped attitudes, and the various
meanings of ‘Cheshireness’.