The War of Ideas in the English Revolution
Course Organiser: Dr. Robert Armstrong
Weighting: 10 ECTS
Teaching Staff: Dr. Robert Armstrong
This course will examine the conflict of ideas which swept England in the middle decades of the seventeenth century, challenging long-held notions of order and stability in both church and state. The nation endured a sequence of devastating civil wars, resulting not only in massive loss of life, including that of the king, Charles I. Yet the battle of ideas was if anything more far-reaching, as events moved towards the overthrow of monarchy and the establishment, for the only time in English history, of a republican political order. Conflicting sides in the civil wars began by contesting ownership of shared commitments - to monarchy, the rule of law, and a Protestant church of England. The debate was soon joined on much more profound questions, as to the origins and nature of political power, even the extent to which 'the people' might be participants in political structures. In matters religious, too, arguments over the nature and future direction of the one, national, Church, were soon turned around to debate the validity of maintaining the identity of nation and church, and the hitherto widely scorned notion of toleration. The opinions which can be heard from these years are not only those of established elites, for the upsurge in print publication allows for a greater access to a wider range of voices, female as well as male, unlearned and lowly as well as powerful.
The course is aimed at developing a understanding of the important political and religious debates undertaken in this time and place through a study of key texts in their contexts; cultivating skills in the critical study of documents; deepening understanding of perennial issues in political thought and the nature of civil society through the detailed study of a particularly focused series of debates in early modern England; encouraging self-directed study towards the production of an extended essay on a topic of the student's own choice, and related to one or more of the seminar sessions.