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  • Series: Politics, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain x
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News and rumour in Jacobean England

Information, court politics and diplomacy, 1618–25

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David Coast

This study examines how political news was concealed, manipulated and distorted in late Jacobean England. Using a wide range of extraordinarily rich manuscript sources, it analyses how news was managed and interpreted during a period of acute political and religious conflict. It analyses how the flow of information to and from the King was managed by his secretaries of state and diplomats, and how the King prevented information about his policies from leaking in to the wider public sphere. It analyses the ‘outward shows’ James made to signal his intentions and mislead a variety of audiences, as well as they ways in which these ‘performances’ could backfire and undermine royal authority. It also examines the sceptical and often cynical reception of news, and the political significance of the rumours that circulated in court and country. It thereby contributes to a wider range of historical debates that reach across the politics and political culture of the reign and beyond. It advances new arguments about censorship, counsel, and the formation of policy; propaganda and royal image-making; political rumours and the relationship between elite and popular politics, as well as shedding new light on the nature and success of James I’s style of rule. In doing so, it aims to examine news as a source of influence and even power in Jacobean England.

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Westminster 1640–60

A royal city in a time of revolution

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J. F. Merritt

This book examines the varied and fascinating ways in which the series of non-monarchical regimes of England’s civil wars and interregnum interacted with the unique locality and community of Westminster. Westminster (as opposed to London) was traditionally viewed as the ‘royal’ city – the site of Whitehall Palace and the royal courts of justice, its Abbey reputed to be the ‘house of kings’, and its inhabitants assumed to be instinctive followers of the monarch and the royal court. Westminster emerges in this study as a site of extraordinary ambiguities and juxtapositions. The promoters of vigorous moral reformation and a sustained and often intrusive military presence coexisted uneasily with the area’s distinctive forms of elite sociability and luxury. The state’s foremost godly preachers performed in close proximity to royalist churchmen. More generally, the forces of political, religious and cultural conservatism can be observed on the very doorstep of parliament and non-monarchical regimes. Yet for Westminster as a whole, this was the time when the locality became tied to the state more tightly than ever before, while at key moments the town’s distinctive geography and local government played a significant role in shaping the political crises of the period. Chapters analyse the crisis of 1640-42, the use of Westminster’s iconic buildings and spaces by the non-monarchical regimes, the sustained military occupation of the locality, the problems of political allegiance and local government, the religious divisions and practices of the period, and the problematic revival of fashionable society in a time of political tension.

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The Cooke sisters

Education, piety and politics in early modern England

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Gemma Allen

In mid-sixteenth-century England, many figures celebrated the achievements of the nation's few female humanists. This book is a study of five remarkable sixteenth-century women. It contextualizes the evidence of the sisters' reading, evaluates it against the prescription for both their male and female contemporaries, and discusses the role of the sisters themselves in directing their reading. Drawing particularly on the sisters' own writings, it demonstrates that the sisters' education extended far beyond that normally allowed for sixteenth-century women. The book challenges the view that women in this period were excluded from using their formal education to practical effect. The evidence of the Cooke sisters' political activities contributes to scholarship on later Tudor political culture. The Cooke sisters' classical learning allowed them opportunities with the written word, particularly in their activities as translators and poets. The book argues that the sisters were able to turn to their humanist education to provide them with strategies for bolstering their advice, particularly over issues of politics and religion, the most contentious areas for female counsel. It looks at the political agency demonstrated in Cooke sisters' correspondence by letters, demonstrating female detailed understanding of and contribution to issues central to Elizabethan politics. The contribution of the Cooke sisters provides another perspective on the key issues of Elizabethan diplomacy, the Queen's marriage and the political divisions of the 1590s. The book also offers a warning against the methodology of past research on the stereotype of the learned woman.

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The Levellers

Radical political thought in the English Revolution

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Rachel Foxley

The Leveller movement of the 1640s campaigned for religious toleration and a radical remaking of politics after the English civil war. This book challenges received ideas about the Levellers as social contract theorists and Leveller thought as a mere radicalization of parliamentarian thought, analysing the writings of the Leveller leaders John Lilburne, Richard Overton, and William Walywn to show that that the Levellers’ originality lay in their subtle and unexpected combination of different strands within parliamentarianism. The first part of the book offers a systematic analysis of different aspects of the Levellers’ developing political thought, considering their accounts of the origins of government, their developing views on the relationship between parliament and people, their use of the language of the law, and their understanding of the relationship between religious liberty and political life. Two concluding chapters examine the Levellers’ relationship with the New Model Army and the influence of the Levellers on the republican thought of the 1650s. The book takes full account of revisionist and post-revisionist scholarship, and contributes to historical debates on the development of radical and republican politics in the civil war period, the nature of tolerationist thought, the significance of the Leveller movement, and the extent of Leveller influence in the ranks of the New Model Army.

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Order and conflict

Anthony Ascham and English political thought, 1648–50

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Marco Barducci

The Puritan Revolution of mid-seventeenth-century England produced an explosion of new and important political thinking. In addition to most famous thinkers, Thomas Hobbes, Sir Robert Filmer and the Levellers, there are other important figures who have been relatively neglected, of whom Anthony Ascham is one. This book is the first full-scale study of Ascham's political thought. Ascham's works were intended to convince lay Presbyterians and royalists to adhere to the policy of national pacification implemented from 1648 by the Independent 'party' within Parliament. From 1648 to 1650 Ascham's propaganda primarily dealt with the issue of the validity of oaths, and insisted on the reciprocal relation between obedience and protection. The first part of Ascham's Discourse focused on 'what things, and how farre a man may lawfully conform to the power and commands of those who hold a kingdome divided by civill warre'. Ascham adopted a twofold line of argument: in the first, he sought to demonstrate that war was consistent with natural law and scripture. Secondly, not all types of war were consistent with the Christian religion and the natural law of self-preservation, only the defensive war. Ascham's natural law theory, which he drew from Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes and John Selden, had therefore both civil and religious implications. Ascham proposed a synthesis between Grotius and Niccolò Machiavelli, underlining the priority of state order over political participation, and justifying war as a means of accessing power only to confirm the necessity of re-establishing order.

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Theatre and empire

Great Britain on the London stages under James VI and I

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Tristan Marshall

This book looks at the interrelationship between nationalism and theatre in the Jacobean period. It also looks at the creation of a British identity brought about by the accession of King James VI of Scotland to the English throne in 1603. The most significant political legacy of James's national project was the creation of an emphatically British identity among the settlers from both England and Scotland who planted Ulster. A series of plays in London's theatres was staging the lives of a group of earlier British rulers. The theatre of the Jacobean period does not rest on Shakespeare alone. What emerges in the study of the London stages in this period is that his work fits into a wider framework of dramatic material discoursing on not just the Union, but on issues of war, religion and overseas exploration. Under James VI and I, the discourse on empire changed to meet the new expansion overseas, and also the practicality of a Scottish king whose person fulfilled the criteria of King of 'Great Britain' in a way that Elizabeth never could. For James VI and I, Shakespeare's play was a celebration of the British imperium that seemed secure in the figures of Henry, Prince of Wales, Prince Charles and the Princess Elizabeth. The repertoire of the theatre companies suggests that in terms of public opinion there was a great deal of consensus regarding the direction of foreign policy.

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Impostures in early modern England

Representations and perceptions of fraudulent identities

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Tobias B. Hug

Impostors and impostures featured prominently in the political, social and religious life of early modern England. Who was likely to be perceived as impostor, and why? This book offers a full-scale analysis of this multifaceted phenomenon. Using approaches drawn from historical anthropology and micro-history, it investigates changes and continuities within the impostor phenomenon from 1500 to the late eighteenth century, exploring the variety of representations and perceptions of impostors, and their deeper meanings within the specific contexts of social, political, religious, institutional and cultural change. The book examines a wide range of sources, from judicial archives and other official records to chronicles, newspapers, ballads, pamphlets and autobiographical writings. Given that identity is never fixed, but involves a performative dimension, changing over time and space, it looks at the specific factors which constitute identity in a particular context, and asks why certain characteristics of an allegedly false identity were regarded as fake.

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The social world of early modern Westminster

Abbey, court and community 1525–1640

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J. F. Merritt

Early modern Westminster is familiar as the location of the Royal Court at Whitehall, parliament, the law courts and the emerging West End, yet it has never been studied in its own right. This book reveals the often problematic relations between the diverse groups of people who constituted local society - the Court, the aristocracy, the Abbey, the middling sort and the poor - and the competing visions of Westminster's identity which their presence engendered. There were four parishes in Westminster at the turn of the sixteenth century. The parishes of St Martin's and St Margaret's have been identified as two of only eighteen English parishes for which continuous and detailed parish records survive for the turbulent period 1535-1570. Differences in social organization, administrative structure and corporate life in the two parishes also provide a study in contrasts. These crucial differences partly shaped forms of lay piety in each parish as well as their very different responses to the religious reformations of Henry VIII and his children. The death of Henry VIII heralded important changes in Westminster. Most strikingly, however, this was a period of major religious change, in stark contrast to the piecemeal changes of Henry's reign. The dissolution of Westminster's abbey gave rise to special problems. The book examines individuals who wielded the most influence at the local government; as well as the social identity of these parish elites. Finally, it explores the interaction of religion with the social and political developments observed in the post-Reformation town.

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Neil Younger

This book assesses the English national war effort during the Anglo-Spanish war (1585–1603), examining wartime government in a wide-ranging set of contexts. It looks first at political problems: the structure of the wartime state, popular attitudes to the war and the government’s efforts to influence them, resistance to demands, and the problems of governing a country divided in religion and a regime deeply fearful of the future. It then assesses the machinery in practice, looking at the work of the central regime under the Queen herself alongside the local government machinery of lord lieutenancies which carried the demands of the centre into the counties, towns and parishes of England. These mechanisms of rule were crucial to the success of the war effort, by providing troops to fight overseas, running the militia which defended against the Spanish Armada (1588) and other invasion attempts and paying for them both through local taxes. The book draws evidence and case studies from across the country and from politics and government at all levels, from the court and Privy Council to the counties and parishes, but it seeks to examine England as a single polity. In this way it ranges much more widely than the war alone and provides a new assessment of the effectiveness of the Elizabethan state as a whole. It challenges many existing assumptions about the weakness of the state in the face of military change, finding a political system in much better health than has previously been thought.

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Laudian and royalist polemic in seventeenth-century England

The career and writings of Peter Heylyn

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Anthony Milton

This is a full-length study of one of the most prolific and controversial polemical authors of the seventeenth century. It provides a detailed analysis of the ways in which Laudian and royalist polemical literature was created, tracing continuities and changes in a single corpus of writings from 1621 through to 1662. In the process, the author presents new perspectives on the origins and development of Laudianism and ‘Anglicanism’, and on the tensions within royalist thought. The book is neither a conventional biography nor simply a study of printed works, but instead constructs an integrated account of Peter Heylyn's career and writings in order to provide the key to understanding a profoundly polemical author. Throughout the book, Heylyn's shifting views and fortunes prompt a reassessment of the relative coherence and stability of royalism and Laudianism.