Article round-up

by Nick

It’s that time of year again when I’ve been distracted by the appearance of new journal articles on early modern topics. Here’s my favorites so far. Subscriptions are required to access all but the EMLS edition, which is online-only and free.

The Essex circle

Alexandra Gajda, ‘The State of Christendom: history, political thought and the Essex circle’, Historical Research, 81, 213 (2008), pp. 423-446.

Gajda looks at a text that mysteriously appeared in 1657 called The State of Christendom, or, A most exact and curious discovery of many secret passages, and hidden mysteries of the times [EEBO]. From the engraving on the front it has been attributed to Sir Henry Wotton. However, internal evidence dates it to 1594-5.

Gajda painstakingly reconstructs a more likely authorship through contextual analysis, linking it to the circle around Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, particularly Anthony Bacon – brother of Francis and Essex’s chief intelligence gatherer. The result is a fascinating exercise in reattribution that also says a lot about the politics of the 1590s. One unaddressed question, however, is why it subsequently ended up being printed in 1657 – an interesting riddle to ponder.

Religion and the decline of magic

Alexandra Walsham, ‘The Reformation and ‘The Disenchantment of the World’ Reassessed’, Historical Journal, 51 (2008), pp. 497-528.

Another of the HJ’s great historiographical reviews, this time a look at the role of the Protestant Reformation in the so-called ‘disenchantment of the world’. Walsham starts by locating the debate in the context of Max Weber’s work, before surveying developments in historical arguments about the sacred and the supernatural during the early modern period. She argues that the Reformation needs to be conceived of as both a social and an intellectual process, and identifies a Whigghish narrative that tends to emphasise a linear development from the supernatural to the enlightended, pointing instead to the concept of “cycles of desacralization and resacralization”.

Paper bullets

Mark Stoyle, ‘The Road to Farndon Field: Explaining the Massacre of the Royalist Women at Naseby’, English Historical Review, 503 (2008), pp. 895-923.

In this article Stoyle looks at the massacre by parliamentarian cavalry at Naseby of Welsh royalist camp-followers. At least a hundred women were killed, with others having their faces mutilated with the “whore’s mark”. Stoyle gives a summary of previous theories about what motivated the killings, noting that all of them rely on studies of pamphlets produced after the event, without considering relevant pamphlets in circulation beforehand that may give a clue as to the soldiers’ actions.

He concludes that the mutilation was almost certainly intended to punish the perceived sexual licence of royalist camp-followers, which had been a theme of certain pamphlets during the early 1640s. He also draws out material in which Welsh and Irish troops were conflated, linking it to the great volume of print on the Irish massacres of 1641. He also looks at evidence of “witches” being summarily executed by parliamentarian troops.

The article is problematic in that no direct evidence survives of parliamentarian soldiers at Naseby reading such pamphlets, or of them being influenced by stories of these events. Stoyle is good, however, at drawing from indirect sources: the fact that officers often read newsbooks and pamphlets to their soldiers, and the literacy rates of soldiers. It would be interesting, nonetheless, to investigate the evidence about whether pamphlets and newsbooks travelled with armies, and of how London publications might have reached armies in the field.

George Gascoigne

Early Modern Literary Studies 14.1/Special Issue 18 (May, 2008)

Finally, Early Modern Literary Studies has a special issue on George Gascoigne. Gascoigne was an English poet and soldier whose works can be seen as a precursor to some of the great later Elizabethan poets. The special issue has some interesting articles on key works, on his self-presentation, and on the influence of his military experience on his poetry. DNB, Wikipedia.