Current Issue Article Abstracts
Volume 83, Number 3 Autumn 2020
Freyja Cox Jensen
This essay addresses the printing and circulation of ancient histories in England before 1600. A detailed case study in the context of wider European printing trends, it focuses on the significance of historians of Rome in particular, drawing on a new statistical analysis of the printing of ancient historians across Europe derived from the Universal Short Title Catalogue. Demonstrating new patterns of print popularity, the essay provides a nuanced understanding of the role histories of Rome played in early modern political culture and aims to facilitate more precise studies of the importance and popularity of individual historians, such as Livy, Plutarch, and Tacitus—both in England and in Europe.
This essay reconsiders late Elizabethan political thought by scrutinizing the significance of the Roman state in the passionate controversy about the royal succession. It explains the varied and often contradictory polemical utility of Roman history in contemporary discussions in England and Europe of monarchy and imperial expansion, and then analyzes its deployment in the most daring contemporary succession tract: the Jesuit Robert Persons’s A Conference about the Next Succession to the Crowne of Ingland (1595). While A Conference has been traditionally under-stood to advocate limited elective kingship, this essay demonstrates that its theoretical first part, in which the Roman example underpins a case for popular sovereignty, was open to far more radical readings. Persons’s treatise attracted widespread charges of antimonarchism and, in the following century, served republican and Whig enemies of the Stuarts
Roman Law and Roman Ideology in Alberico Gentili
Alberico Gentili (1552–1608) is associated with two different aspects of the political heritage of Rome in early modern England: first, with the English reception of Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy, and thus with republican-ism in a Roman idiom; second, with the absolutist revival of Roman civil law under James VI and I. This essay argues that we cannot understand this apparent contradiction within a purely English context. We need to broaden our lens to the international arena, which is where Gentili situated both his jurisprudence and his politics. It is the confrontation between these that is Gentili’s ultimate concern, and this essay suggests how he negotiated the divide in a new style of legal writing.
This essay illustrates the subterranean presence of classical writing in seventeenth-century English political thinking. It shows how Ben Jonson’s Catiline his Conspiracy (1611), a dramatization of Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae, penetrated the mind of one of Jonson’s disciples, the eminent statesman and royalist historian Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon. Over the decades after Jonson’s death, the play helped Clarendon, as well as other followers of Charles I, to make sense of the nation’s descent into civil war and revolution.