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Seminar Group 2

Tutor: Dr Imogen Peck

Office: H343
Office Hours: Thursdays 11-12 or by appointment
Seminar Time and Location: Thursdays 10-11 in H0.56

Hello! And welcome to the British Problem. Please see below for the reading lists for each class: these will be added at least a week in advance as we progress through the course.

As you can see, each week contains 'core reading' (things you MUST read in preparation for the seminar; usually one primary source and one secondary source) and a list of suggestions for 'further reading' - I would recommend trying to take a look at at least one of these as well, depending on your interests. The 'Questions to Consider' are there to guide your reading, and will often be the jumping off point for class discussions.

You will also find lots of relevant reading on the background reading page. Please do dip into this, especially if you are new to early modern history (not least because it contains a number of overview texts that make excellent starting points!)

Week 10: The Impact of the Civil Wars

For our final class, we will focus on the impact the Civil Wars had on the lives of British citizens. In particular, we're going to look at how the many men, women, and children who were caught up in the conflict responded to and narrated their experiences. To do this, we're going to look at a particularly rich source body: maimed soldier and war widow petitions. These documents were written statements presented to local courts, in the hope of securing financial relief.

I'm aware you have essay due this week, so I have tried to keep reading to a minimum. If your surname is in the first half of the alphabet (say, up to and including M) I'd like you to focus on maimed soldiers. M onwards, you are team war widows.

For maimed soldier please read:

Appleby, 'Unnecessary persons'

For war widows please read:

Peck, The great unknown

I would also like you to identify a petition produced by either a maimed soldier or war widow, and bring a copy of the transcript along to discuss in class. You can find petitions and their transcripts on this excellent database, which is part of an ongoing project at the University of Leicester: There's also a good bibliography there of further reading, if you're interested.

For a further reading list, scroll down to the extra reading here 

Questions to consider

What kind of person was eligible for financial assistance via the maimed soldier and war widows pensions scheme?

What strategies did men and women deploy in their efforts to secure financial relief?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of petitions as historical evidence?

Week 9: A 'British' Republic?

The execution of Charles I in 1649 posed a serious challenge to the union of the kingdoms: for without a King, what - if anything - remained to unite them? Many Presbyterians, both north and south of the border, had vehemently opposed the regicide, and just a few days after the axe fell the Scottish Parliament declared Charles II King of Scotland. The following year, the Covenanters - once the Parliamentarians' allies - signed a treaty with Charles in which he promised to deliver what the Parliament had not: the establishment of Presbyterianism as the national church. In response, the fledgling English republic launched a pre-emptive strike against the Scots. England's victory led to a forced union between the two nations. Meanwhile, in Ireland, ongoing campaigns to subdue the Irish resulted in some of the most infamous events in British history. Even the death of the King was not enough to resolve the tensions between the three kingdoms. In this seminar, we're going to explore the republic's approach to the 'British problem' and its enduring legacy.

Core reading

Source presenters, please pick a source on the regicide (see the reading list here for suggestions - the John Nalson text would be a good fit, perhaps. Or the trial charges against the king - see HERE).

Everyone else...

Thomas May, The Changeable Covenant (1650). (May was a well-known republican propagandist; he was also commissioned to write two histories of the wars during the 1640s and 50s). Aval HERE


Derek Hirst, 'The English Republic and the Meaning of Britain', Journal of Modern History (1994) AVAL here


Sarah Covington, 'The odious demon from across the sea’. Oliver Cromwell, Memory and the Dislocations of Ireland' in Memory Before Modernity (Aval HERE)

If you have time, and if you're interested in memory/modern politics, I would also recommend taking a look at this:

Naomi McAreavey, 'Building Bridges? Remembering the 1641 Rebellion in Northern Ireland, Memory Studies (2018) -aval here

Questions to consider

What arguments did the republic use to justify military action against the Scots?

Why was Scotland incorporated into a forced union?

To what extent did the republics have a British vision?

In what ways have memories of the Civil Wars influenced contemporary Irish politics?

Week 8: The Road to Civil War

This will be the first of 3 seminars focusing on the British Civil Wars, including the Cromwellian invasion of Scotland and Ireland. The shift from away from talking about the 'English' Civil Wars to the 'British' Civil Wars reflects a growing the awareness among historians that these wars were a three kingdoms conflict, and that the relationships between the kingdoms were crucial in determining their character. This where lots of the issues we've discussed in preceding weeks come to a head! For this seminar, we're going to look at the causes and nature of the wars between 1642 and 1648, which ultimately culminated in the execution of Charles I and the formation of the first English (British? Discuss!) republic in 1649.

We will be thinking about Charles's relationship with his parliament and some of the reasons for the unprecedented breakdown of trust between the King and his subjects. We will also examine how different parts of the British Isles were affected and responded to the Civil War by drawing upon different case studies in Mark Stoyle's Soldiers and Strangers: An Ethnic History of the English Civil War (2005).

    Core Reading

    Mini-presenters - I'd like you to focus on a source that relates to the Irish rebellion (1641). There are some suggestions here, or maybe try either A True and Credible Relation of the Barbarous Crueltie and Bloody Massacres of the English Protestants or the online database of depositions from the rebellion.

    Everyone else...

    Jason Peacey, 'The Outbreak of the Civil Wars in the Three Kingdoms', ch. 15 in Barry Coward (ed.), A Companion to Stuart Britain (2007) (available as an e-book).


    A copy of the Solemn League and Covenant (1643). There's a brief explanation of the context of this document here.


    In addition, I have have assigned you each a chapter from Mark Stoyle's Soldiers and Strangers: An Ethnic History of the English Civil War (2005), which looks at the Wars of the Three Kingdoms from an ethnic perspective. Please read this and come to the group prepared to explain what you have read to the rest of the group. If you are interested in learning more about Stoyle's approach, you can access a scan of the introduction here.

    The Welsh Dimension: Ralista, Will, Luke C, Alistair D

    The Irish and the 'English Irish': Glen, Jacob, Richard K, Adedayo

    The Scots in England: Luke M, Maisha, Ed, Ellie

    The Cornish (a new but interesting dimension to the British problem from those we've discussed thus far)

    Beth, Sidney, Ella, Richard S

    Questions to consider

    • Why did the rebellions in Scotland and Ireland push England to the brink of Civil War?
    • How far did Charles's religious policies contribute to the outbreak of the Wars?
    • How far were the Wars the inevitable result of the centralisation of a composite state?
    • Why was fear of Catholicism so rife in this period?

    Week 7: Wales and the Making of the British Nation

    In this seminar we're going to turn our attention to the peculiar case of Wales and its relationship with Tudor and Stuart religion, politics, and society. In particular, we're going to focus on the act of union, and the extent to which Wales relationship with England differed from that of Scotland and Ireland.

    Core reading

    Please read:

    George Owen, The Dialogue of the Government of Wales (1594) [extracts]. Taken from the edited version by John Gwynfor Jones.


    Ciaran Brady, 'Comparable histories?: Tudor Reform in Wales and Ireland' in Steven G. Ellis and Sarah Barber (eds), Conquest and Union: Fashioning a British State, 1485-1725 (London, 1995) (e-book)


    Nicholas Canny, ‘Irish, Scottish and Welsh responses to centralisation, c.1530-c.1640: a comparative perspective’, Part III, ch. 9, in A. Grant & K.J. Stringer (eds.), Uniting the Kingdom? The Making of British History (London, 1995) (ebook)

    As it's the week after a reading week, please also take a look at:

    Lloyd Bowen, 'The Battle of Britain: History and Reformation in Early Modern Wales', in Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin and Robert Armstrong, Christianities in the Early Modern Celtic World (2014), pp. 135-150. (available as e-book)

    There's also lots of further reading, and some additional sources, here

    Questions to consider

    Why was Wales and not Ireland successfully incorporated into early modern England?

    Was the union in Wales of a wholly different character to that experienced in Ireland and/or Scotland?

    What were the different arguments called upon to justify the union of England and Wales?

    How successful was the Reformation in Wales?

    Week 5: The Creation of British America

    During the 17th century more than 350,000 English people crossed the Atlantic to settle in North America. This week, we're going to explore some of the reasons why Britain started to look beyond the Archipelago and establish a transatlantic empire. How far was this a spiritual endeavour? Were native inhabitants to be 'converted' or involved in the wider empire project? Was this an empire for Britain or an empire for England?

    Core reading

    Please read at least one of the following primary sources (I have allocated one each below so we get an even coverage!). Think about who is writing it, why, and for whom? What does it tell us about the motivations for colonisation? (mini-presenters, please pick a different text to present on - there are lots of options on the further reading list here)

    John Winthrop, Modell of Christian Charity (1630). (Ralitsa, Will, Luke C, Alistair)

    1609 Robert Johnson, Nova Brittania: Offering Most Excellent fruits by Planting in Virginia (1609) [excerpt]. (Glen, Jacob, Richard K, Maisha)

    Thomas Hariot, A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1585) (Ed, Luke McN, Sidney, Beth)

    The Second Virginia Charter (1609)(Ella, Ellie, Richard S, Adedayo)


    Nicholas Canny, ‘The ideology of English colonisation: from Ireland to America’, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 30:4 (1973), p. 575-98

    OR (or both...)

    Peter C. Mancall's chapter 'Native Americans and Europeans in English America, 1500-1700', in Nicholas Canny, ed., The Oxford History of the British Empire, vol. 1 (1998) (ebook), pp. 328-350.

    There is also lots of further reading on the module reading list.

    Questions to consider

    • How important was religion in driving expansion into the Americas?
    • What did English commentators perceive as the prime purpose of overseas empire?
    • To what extent did conquest and union within the three kingdoms dictate approaches to the New World?
    • How significant were internal problems in Britain in the evolution of a policy of overseas expansion?

      Week 4: The Gaelic World, 1558-1625

      In this seminar, we're going to take a bit of a step back from looking at Britain through the lens of successive monarchs. Instead, we will be looking at the Gaelic world, the nature of religion and politics in Scotland and Ireland, and the relationships between the two countries. In particular, we will be considering the effects of the European Reformations on determining the politics of the Gaelic world. We will also explore the effectiveness of English policy towards Scotland and Ireland during this period, questioning whether the Gaelic world posed a serious challenge to these ambitious English and Scottish monarchs.

      Core reading

      Jane Ohlmeyer, ‘Driving a wedge within Gaeldom: Ireland & Scotland in the seventeenth century’, History Ireland (1999)

      OR (ideally, both!)

      Nicholas Canny, 'Irish, Scottish and Welsh Responses to Centralisation, 1530-1640: A Comparative Perspective' in Grant and Stringer (eds.), Uniting the Kingdom? The Making of British History (1995) (available as e-book)


      Hugh O'Neill's war aims (1599)

      A New Description of Ireland by Barnabie Rich (1610) - taken from Ania Loomba and Jonathan Burton (ed.), Race in Early Modern England: A Documentary Companion (2007) - aval as an ebook. Think about how this description compares to the English attitudes towards the Scots that we discussed last week.

      There is lots of further reading/sources on the reading list here

      Questions to consider

      • How far did religion determine the politics of Gaelic Ireland c. 1550-1640?
      • How effective was English policy towards Ireland and/or Scotland?
      • Why was a policy of conquest and plantation pursued in Ireland and not Scotland?
      • How far were the Gaelic Scots and Irish the excluded 'other' in Tudor and Stuart Britain?
      Week 3: A Perfect Union? James VI & I and his three kingdoms

      This week will cover the period from 1603, when a Scotsman, James VI inherited the English throne. James had been King of Scotland since his mother, Mary Stuart, abdicated in 1567. Although unification of these kingdoms under a single monarch was a significant moment in the history of the British Isles, it also brought with it a number of ambiguities and tensions about a) what type of union this should be; b) how it would work; and c) how it could be justified.

      In the seminar we're going to explore whether James's plans for perfect union were viable, the challenges James faced in uniting his English and Scottish subjects, and some of the anti-Scots sentiments prevalent in Westminster politics at the time.We will also think about James's ideas and beliefs (he was a prolific intellectual thinker) and will explore some his writings and attitudes towards kingship.

      To link up with last week's seminar, there's an interesting 'In our Time' podcast about James' succession to the English throne: 'The Death of Elizabeth I' (BBC Radio 4).

      Core reading


      J. Wormald, ‘James VI and I: two kings or one?’ History 68 (1983) (scanned copy available here)


      Sarah Waurechan, ‘Imagined Polities, Failed Dreams, and the Beginnings of an Unacknowledged Britain: English Responses to James VI and I’s Vision of Perfect Union’, Journal of British Studies (2013) – (scanned copy here).


      True Law of Free Monarchies by James I, in which he outlines his theory of kingship. On what grounds does James justify his right to rule? How does this compare with any of the other theories of authority you might have come across in your studies thus far?

      If you have time, you may also want to take a look at the poems E1-7 on the Early Stuart Libel database in the section 'Attacks on the Scots'.

      DON'T FORGET that you can also sign-up for the tour of Kenilworth Castle on Wednesday 27th November here:

      Questions to consider

      • What were the main arguments for and against James I/VI’s plan for ‘perfect union’?
      • Did James do more than Elizabeth to strengthen royal authority?
      • Was rule of the three kingdoms intrinsically unworkable?

      Week 2 Elizabeth, Mary, and the Politics of Religion in the British Isles

      One of the principal themes running through this module is rivalry between the kingdoms of England and Scotland. In class, we're going to focus on the relationship between Elizabethan England and its northern neighbours. How did events in Europe influence relations between Scotland and England? To what extent was religion the main driving force behind Anglo-Scottish relations? And is it accurate to say that Elizabeth and her advisers had a 'British vision'?

      Core reading


      Jane Dawson, ‘William Cecil and the British Dimension of early Elizabethan foreign policy’, History (1989) (Scanned copy available here).

      OR (or both, if you have the time...)

      Roger Mason, ‘Scotland, Elizabethan England and the Idea of Britain’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 14, (2004), pp. 279-293.


      The dedication to Elizabeth I in John Foxe's 1563 Book of Martyrs - on this link here. It's a few pages long - try and get a sense, first, of what this text is all about/its context and aims, and, second, the comparisons Foxe is drawing between Elizabeth and Constantine, why, and what this suggests about his attitude towards (and hopes for) her reign.

      Further reading

      There is a wide range of further reading on this reading list here

      Questions to consider

      • In what ways was Elizabethan policy determined by developments in Europe and the wider world?
      • How far did Elizabeth and her council have a ‘British’ vision?
      • Why and to what extent did the ambitions of the Scottish monarchy destabilise English politics 1558-1603?

      Week 1 British Identities

      The first seminar will primarily be an introduction to the course, and to one another. In preparation, I would like you to have a look at the pieces below.

      Core reading

      Philip Schwyzer, 'Nationalism in the Renaissance', Oxford Handbooks Online (2016) - aval here

      'In our Time' podcast on 'Englishness'.

      You should also take a look at these maps by Jodocus Hondius (Typus Angliae) and Christopher Saxton (Anglia). What do they suggest about early modern conceptions of the Isles?

      Further reading

      'British National Identity', in History Today, 62.8 (2012) (online here)

      Alan MacColl, 'The Meaning of “Britain” in Medieval and Early Modern England', Journal of British Studies (2016)

      Patrick Collinson, This England: Essays on the English Nation and Commonwealth in the 16thc (2011) - esp introduction

      Questions to consider

      • What does 'Britishness' / being 'British' mean to you?
      • How and why have historians disagreed about what constitutes the 'British nation' in the early modern period?
      • In what ways have historians connected the idea of Britishness with the development of 'modern' national identity?
      • What are some of the key factors that affected the political development of the British 'nation' at the start of our period?