Rethinking the Cultural Origins of the English Revolution: John Felton, George Eglisham, and the Secret History of Early Stuart England

Collaborative Group

Professor Alastair James Bellany, Professor Thomas E. Cogswell




Debate on the causes of the English Revolution of 1640-60 has reached an impasse. This project reignites the debate by shifting the terrain of analysis from “causes” to “cultural origins,” and by utilizing interdisciplinary methodology that places histories of media, image-manufacture, and popular perception at the core of the analysis. The collaboration will produce two co-authored books: a study of the 1628 assassination of the English court favorite George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham; and a study of the manufacture, appropriation, and shifting political meanings of the allegation that Buckingham had poisoned King James I. The monographs explore from different perspectives the role of underground media in the long-term origins of the English Revolution: libelous verse and illicit pamphlets, scandalous political images of corrupt royal favorites and their kingly masters, and popular perceptions of courtly misgovernment and royal misrule. This project builds upon the complementary research expertise and methodological innovations of two historians of early Stuart politics and culture, and rests upon their collaborative archival research into a vast array of manuscript and printed material scattered in archives across Britain, the US, and Europe. While the scholars have collaborated before with other colleagues on essays and critical editions, these books represent their first major collaboration together. They will capture a culture whose unraveling in the 1640s would produce phenomena—a dynamic political public sphere, radical political philosophy, and constitutional experimentation—usually taken to be constitutive features of political modernity. Award period: January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013