News and rumour in Jacobean England

Information, court politics and diplomacy, 1618–25

Author: 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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‘Given the murkiness of his topic, Coast uses his sources responsibly and insightfully to present a remarkably clear picture....a welcome and accomplished attempt to listen carefully for the echoes left in the archives...'
Hugh Adlington, University of Birmingham
Archives, the journal of the British Records Association
December 2014

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