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The International Politics of Religion

The central thrust of my recent book is for the importance and effect of the sustained and sincere efforts to build a pan-Protestant league between England and the Protestant lands of the Holy Roman Empire and Denmark. The work examines these relations and sets them in the context of Elizabethan England's concurrent collaboration with Protestant Scotland, Huguenot France, the Dutch Reformed, and the Calvinist Swiss cantons. Some scholars have signaled Anglo-German relations in the past (namely Kouri, Doran, and Trim), but my undertaking is a full-scale study for the entirety of the Elizabethan era. Much changed over those 45 years, and Elizabeth and the various Protestant Princes of the Empire and Scandinavia adapted as needed to generational shifts and rifts. From Elizabeth's accession in 1558 through the tumults of the Council of Trent, French Wars of Religion, Lutheran doctrinal disputes, and so on, diplomatic correspondence and efforts to confederate abounded, sometimes with concrete results of assistance to Protestant brethren in need. Far from a 'failure', Elizabeth's German policy yeilded no small number of positive results. To be sure, Elizabeth and her realm were not Lutheran, but that didn't mean they weren't open to pan-Protestant collaboration!

The implications of my research are that scholars need to view Elizabethan foreign policy and religious relations with mainland Europe in a new light. The ideological proximity of some within the Church of England to the Reformed Churches of Zürich and Geneva is, of course, the classic story; yet, omitting the Lutheran and otherwise German Protestant Churches from the anti-Catholic umbrella leaves out too significant a portion of the narrative. Not all negotiations and Anglo-Lutheran interactions were positive, though, and my findings help us understand why the Elizabethan State (as led by Elizabeth, Burghley, Walsingham, et al.) seemed at times inconsistent in its policy. Sincere league building on both sides at one time could be countered by practical or ideological intransigence at others.

During this research, I began to wonder about a number of other issues, too. It seems that little scholarship has looked at the early relationships of James VI with foreign Protestant potentates, translations of works by German Protestants (genuinely Lutheran or otherwise) into English, and the doctrinal and ceremonial affinities between moderate avant-garde conformists and the Phillipist Lutheran tradition. Thus, my current projects include these and other issues.

The main body of primary sources has been and continues to be in manuscript, though printed sources are used when relevant. Archives consulted include the usual suspects in London (the British Library, National Archives, and Lambeth Palace Library); additional valuable repositories have included the Cambridge University Library, the Bodleian and All Souls College Oxford, Aberdeen University Library, and Hatfield House. To avoid an overly Anglocentric perspective, additional work has been in archives in the United States, Denmark, and throughout Germany: from Munich, Stuttgart, and Marburg, to Dresden, Berlin, and Hanover. (Additionally, the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel is not to be underestimated!) Utilizing an array of source bases has offered breadth and depth to my own scholarship, but such research adds to the chorus of those advocating the importance and value of mainland European sources for British Studies, moving us further towards something of a 'postnational historiography'.

Current Mentor at Durham:

Professor Alec Ryrie

Doctoral Supervisor
at Wisconsin:

Professor Johann P. Sommerville

Informal Mentor at Warwick:

Professor Peter Marshall