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Writing the history of parliament in Tudor and early Stuart England$
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Paul Cavill and Alexandra Gajda

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780719099588

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719099588.001.0001

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The politic history of early Stuart parliaments

The politic history of early Stuart parliaments

(p.172) Chapter 8 The politic history of early Stuart parliaments
Writing the history of parliament in Tudor and early Stuart England

Noah Millstone

Manchester University Press

This essay traces the development of a particular way of writing the history of parliament: the politic history. A creation of the late Renaissance, politic histories preferred to explain events neither through divine intervention, nor through imperceptible forces and contingency, but rather through human intentionality. Following classical and contemporary models such as Tacitus, Commynes and Guicciardini, English politic historians wove narratives of vice, secrecy and dissimulation. The essay explores how, in the early seventeenth century, historians appropriated the modes of politic composition and applied them to new institutional settings: university elections, church councils and especially parliaments. It concludes with an analysis of the most impressive politic history of the early Stuart parliament, Sir John Eliot’s Negotium posterorum. Composed during Eliot’s imprisonment after 1629, the Negotium posterorurm is clearly the first part of a formal, politic history of Charles I’s reign, heavily modelled on Tacitus and with parliament as its central stage. Eliot’s project suggests how politic narration could be applied to the recent past, helping to produce historicised accounts of the present.

Keywords:   politic history, church councils, Paolo Sarpi, Tacitus, Philippe de Commynes, Sir John Eliot, Negotium posterorum, duke of Buckingham, Cambridge University

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