This book tells the story of English relations with Russia, from the 'strange and wonderfull discoverie' of the land and Elizabeth I's correspondence with Ivan the Terrible, to the corruption of the Muscovy Company and the Elizabethan regime's censorship of politically sensitive representations of Russia. Focusing on the life and works of Giles Fletcher, the elder, ambassador to Russia in 1588, it explores two popular themes in Elizabethan history: exploration, travel and trade and late Elizabethan political culture. The book draws together and analyses the narratives of travel, the practicalities of trade and the discourses of commonwealth and corruption that defined English encounters in late sixteenth century. In the early stages of English mercantile contact with Russia, diplomatic negotiations took shape in the wake of developing trade relations and were made up of a series of ad hoc embassies by individuals. The embassy of Giles Fletcher in 1588, however, represented a change in diplomatic tack. Fletcher's writing of Russia reveals some shared Elizabethan images of the land on Christendom's periphery and fundamentally how Russia was used as a site to reflect on themes of cultural development, commonwealth, trade and colonisation. The extensive use in Fletcher's text of the language of anti-popery points to resonances with the anxieties that riddled the political and religious consciences of late Elizabethan England. His work engaged in cajoling the commonwealth to think with the image of Russia.
of the Russian state provided an opportunity for his readers to explore conceptions of government, embodied in the idiom of ‘commonwealth’, and its
renaissance antithesis – tyranny. In this sense, the study of Fletcher’s works
connects us directly to two historiographies that are often separated, to the
Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth
detriment of both: that of Elizabethan travel and trade literature, linked to
Fletcher’s term ‘Russe’, and that of lateElizabethanpoliticalculture, epitomised by his use of the term ‘commonwealth
Milward, ‘Wright, Thomas’. For
an extended consideration of Essex’s attitudes towards
religious tolerance and the significance of Wright’s
return, see Alexandra Gajda, The Earl of Essex and LateElizabethanPoliticalCulture (Oxford: Oxford
LateElizabethanPoliticalCulture (Oxford, 2012); of James’s correspondence and its
role in smoothing his accession, see Alexander Courtney, ‘The Accession of James VI
to the English Throne, 1601–1603’ (M. Phil., University of Cambridge, 2004).
32 To name but a few, Alison Shell, Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary
Imagination, 1558–1660 (Cambridge, 1999); Molly Murray, The Poetics of Conversion in
Early Modern English Literature (Cambridge, 2009); Andrew Hadfield, Literature, Politics
and National Identity: Reformation to Renaissance (Cambridge, 1994
), Sacred History: Uses of the
Christian Past in the Renaissance World (Oxford, 2012), pp. 3–26.
Lake, Bad Queen Bess?, passim.
A. Gajda, The Earl of Essex and LateElizabethanPoliticalCulture (Oxford, 2012),
‘Early Stuart libels: an edition of poetry from manuscript sources’, ed. A. Bellany
and A. McRae, Early Modern Literary Studies Text Series, 1 (2005), available at
www.earlystuartlibels.net/htdocs/index.html (accessed 21 Sept. 2017).
A. Kiséry, Hamlet’s Moment: Drama and Political Knowledge in Early Modern
England (Oxford, 2016).
See the splendid treatment
Medieval history in parliamentarian polemic, 1641–42
of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade
(Cambridge, 1995), pp. 87–108; J. G. A. Pocock, ‘Medieval kings at the court
of Charles I: Thomas May’s verse histories’, in J. Marino and M. Schlitt (eds),
Perspectives on Early Modern and Modern Intellectual History (Rochester, NY, and
Woodbridge, 2000), pp. 442–58.
3 Giovanni Biondi, An History of the Civill Warres of England, trans. Henry, earl of
4 A. Gajda, The Earl of Essex and LateElizabethanPoliticalCulture (Oxford, 2012),
pp. 212–15, 236–54; P. E. J. Hammer
The Archpriest controversy and the issue of the succession
Peter Lake and Michael Questier
Spain and his Ministers (London, 1594). The State of
Christendom, the tract identified by Alexandra Gajda as having been written by Anthony
Bacon on behalf of the Essex faction in 1594–5, also took this form, as did the translation into English of Antonio Perez’ memoirs, also prepared for Essex in 1595; see
her ‘The State of Christendom: history, political thought and the Essex circle’, Historical
Research, 81 (2008), 423–46 and The Earl of Essex and LateElizabethanPoliticalCulture
(Oxford, 2012), pp. 87–8.
62 Persons consistently claimed that he had never sought
the Public Sphere in
Early Modern England (Manchester, 2007), pp. 95–115; Mervyn James, ‘At a crossroads
of the political culture: the Essex revolt, 1601’, in Society, Politics and Culture: Studies in
Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 416–65.
16 Northumberland to James, CJRC, p. 66.
Britain and beyond
17 See Alexandra Gajda, The Earl of Essex and LateElizabethanPoliticalCulture (Oxford,
18 Capt. Egerton to L. D. Fitzwilliam, 8 October 1593, TNA, SP63/172/2 XIX; ‘Declaration
of Richard Nugent … made to the Lord Chancellor &c’, 19 April
Essex and LateElizabethanPoliticalCulture (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2012). For Essex’s career see P. E. J.
Hammer, The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political
Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex ,
1585–1597 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1999); Janet Dickinson, Court Politics and the Earl of Essex,
1589–1601 (London: Pickering and
c. 1590–1630’, in K. Sharpe and P. Lake (eds), Culture and Politics in Early Stuart
England (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994), pp. 21–44.
46 A. Gajda, The Earl of Essex and LateElizabethanPoliticalCulture (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2012). See also A. Gajda, ‘Debating war and peace in late Elizabethan
England’, Historical Journal, 52:4 (2009), 851–78.
47 Smuts, ‘Court-centred politics’, p. 22.
48 D. Norbrook, Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance (New York and Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2002, rev. edn), p. 154.
49 Smuts, ‘Court