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Witchcraft and Politics in Early Modern England, c. 1558-1604

Witchcraft and Politics in Early Modern England, c. 1558-1604
Witchcraft and Politics in Early Modern England, c. 1558-1604
The close relationship which frequently existed between politics and the occult in early modern England remains a surprisingly understudied subject. The purpose of the present thesis is to carry out a detailed investigation of the nature of that relationship between 1558 and 1604. In particular, the thesis will ask how the regimes of Elizabeth I and James I responded to the alleged use of witchcraft against the Crown – and how the governments themselves sought to make use of witchcraft for their own polemical purposes. The thesis begins by discussing the political background to the Witchcraft Act of 1563: challenging the traditional view that Bishop John Jewel played an important part in fostering this legislation, and stressing, instead, the crucial role of a series of alleged Catholic plots against the Queen. The thesis then moves on to trace the ways in which witchcraft and politics continued to interconnect with each other during the period of the early witch trials, followed by the 1580s, a period in which the regime’s attention became ever more focused on war with Spain, and then during the 1590s, a period in which the attention of the Queen’s chief councillors began to turn increasingly towards the possibility of a Stuart succession. Finally, the political context of the Witchcraft Act of 1604 is considered. The core sources for the thesis are the State Papers. Few other witchcraft scholars have made extensive use of these documents and the insights which they afford are discussed in the conclusion. The central argument of the thesis is that witchcraft and politics were far more closely interwoven between 1558 and 1604 than is generally recognised. This was partly the result of religious rivalries – but it was ultimately the perceived level of occult threat to the monarch’s life that was the most important factor in determining the regime’s interest in witchcraft at any given moment.
University of Southampton
Brennen, Lewis
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Brennen, Lewis
966c6765-017f-4481-8788-dd78f3088218
Stoyle, Mark
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Gammon, Julie
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Brennen, Lewis (2022) Witchcraft and Politics in Early Modern England, c. 1558-1604. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 224pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The close relationship which frequently existed between politics and the occult in early modern England remains a surprisingly understudied subject. The purpose of the present thesis is to carry out a detailed investigation of the nature of that relationship between 1558 and 1604. In particular, the thesis will ask how the regimes of Elizabeth I and James I responded to the alleged use of witchcraft against the Crown – and how the governments themselves sought to make use of witchcraft for their own polemical purposes. The thesis begins by discussing the political background to the Witchcraft Act of 1563: challenging the traditional view that Bishop John Jewel played an important part in fostering this legislation, and stressing, instead, the crucial role of a series of alleged Catholic plots against the Queen. The thesis then moves on to trace the ways in which witchcraft and politics continued to interconnect with each other during the period of the early witch trials, followed by the 1580s, a period in which the regime’s attention became ever more focused on war with Spain, and then during the 1590s, a period in which the attention of the Queen’s chief councillors began to turn increasingly towards the possibility of a Stuart succession. Finally, the political context of the Witchcraft Act of 1604 is considered. The core sources for the thesis are the State Papers. Few other witchcraft scholars have made extensive use of these documents and the insights which they afford are discussed in the conclusion. The central argument of the thesis is that witchcraft and politics were far more closely interwoven between 1558 and 1604 than is generally recognised. This was partly the result of religious rivalries – but it was ultimately the perceived level of occult threat to the monarch’s life that was the most important factor in determining the regime’s interest in witchcraft at any given moment.

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PhD Thesis_Lewis Brennen - Version of Record
Restricted to Repository staff only until 31 December 2024.
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.
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Permission to Deposit Thesis Form_Lewis Brennen
Restricted to Repository staff only
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.

More information

Submitted date: September 2021
Published date: February 2022

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 454716
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/454716
PURE UUID: 39654bb4-8ef3-4685-a946-e6f648c381ba

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 21 Feb 2022 17:46
Last modified: 21 Feb 2022 17:46

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Contributors

Author: Lewis Brennen
Thesis advisor: Mark Stoyle
Thesis advisor: Julie Gammon

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