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They themselves will be the Judges what commands are lawfull’: Legal pamphlets and political mobilisation in the early 1640s

Hitchman, Alexander (2017) They themselves will be the Judges what commands are lawfull’: Legal pamphlets and political mobilisation in the early 1640s. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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This thesis examines the pamphlets which defended Parliament’s resistance against the King in the first English civil war (1642–1646), and the development of Parliament’s legal case in response to the pressures of mobilisation, ideas and events. The civil war was explained, narrated and defended in cheap print, which was consumed by the reading public who were hungry for news, ideas and justifications. Increasingly, pamphlets used the device of an implied reader to construct obedience and solve the political problems thrown up by the debate, but this unprecedented opening-up of legal issues to public debate further complicated the parliamentary cause. The thesis also integrates the printers and publishers who facilitated this public debate into its account of legal, political and religious ideas. By using typographic and bibliographic techniques, the thesis suggests that printers and publishers held coherent political and religious identities, and could exert influence over not only the pamphlets they produced, but increasingly the way that the parliamentary cause was understood. As the concept of allegiance becomes more problematic, and as histories of the civil war focus more on the concept of mobilisation and the construction of the parliamentary cause, this thesis argues that closer contextualisation and a chronological examination of the debate elucidates in greater detail the complexities and complications of the parliamentarian position. By tracing the way that Parliament’s case developed throughout the conflict and the ways in which their justification had to flex to accommodate new ideas and events, this thesis examines the legitimising frameworks that pamphlet authors used to explain the civil war, which through the course of the conflict became increasingly contested and destabilised under the weight of the polemical pamphlets themselves. The collapse of these legitimising frameworks, combined with a partisan press willing to intervene in the debate and a jury of readers willing to bring their own legal understandings to the issues of the day, left the parliamentary cause fractured and ultimately created a political environment where settlement could not be achieved.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > History (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Alexander Hitchman
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2018 10:34
Last Modified: 01 Jan 2019 01:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/18995

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