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Law, Counsel, and Commonwealth: Languages of Power in the Early English Reformation

Knaack, Christine (2015) Law, Counsel, and Commonwealth: Languages of Power in the Early English Reformation. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis examines how power was re-articulated in light of the royal supremacy during the early stages of the English Reformation. It argues that key words and concepts, particularly those involving law, counsel, and commonwealth, formed the basis of political participation during this period. These concepts were invoked with the aim of influencing the king or his ministers, of drawing attention to problems the kingdom faced, or of expressing a political ideal. This thesis demonstrates that these languages of power were present in a wide variety of contexts, appearing not only in official documents such as laws and royal proclamations, but also in manuscript texts, printed books, sermons, complaints, and other texts directed at king and counsellors alike. The prose dialogue and the medium of translation were employed in order to express political concerns. This thesis shows that political languages were available to a much wider range of participants than has been previously acknowledged. Part One focuses on the period c. 1528-36, investigating the role of languages of power during the period encompassing the Reformation Parliament. The legislation passed during this Parliament re-articulated notions of the realm’s social order, creating a body politic that encompassed temporal and spiritual members of the realm alike and positioning the king as the head of that body. Writers and theorists examined legal changes by invoking the commonwealth, describing the social hierarchy as an organic body politic, and using the theme of counsel to acknowledge the king’s imperial authority. Part Two examines two later Reformation contexts: that of the warfare of the 1540s and Edward VI’s minority kingship. Languages of power continued to be accessible to a wide range of participants across the social hierarchy in these later periods. This thesis demonstrates that, far from being limited to the political nation or the centre of the kingdom’s political life, a complex political idiom was available to a broad spectrum of the social order. These languages were present in a larger number of rhetorical contexts than has been often acknowledged.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.665058
Depositing User: Christine Knaack
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2015 13:20
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:20
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/9746

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