Patrick Collinson's work explores the complex interactions between the inclusive and exclusive tendencies in English Protestantism, focusing both on famous figures, such as John Foxe and Richard Hooker, and on the individual reactions of lesser figures to the religious challenges of the time.
In an engaging essay that has hitherto often been overlooked, Collinson reinvestigates what he calls the ‘Elizabethan exclusion crisis’. Here, he argues that the sustained attempt of much of the political nation to prevent the ascension of Mary Queen of Scots to the English throne bears a striking resemblance to the better known Restoration events of the same name. Highlighting the 1584 Bond of Association and an association discovered in the Earl of Shaftesbury’s possessions in 1681, he claims that the two exclusion crises had five common characteristics. These were a popular fear of Catholicism, the attempt to exclude a Catholic successor from the throne, the fear of arbitrary government, the divergence of the interests of the political nation from those of the monarch, and the presence of a Sidney (Sir Philip Sydney in the 16th century, and in the following century, his grand-nephew, Algernon Sidney). Moreover, Collinson notes that those living through the crisis of the 1680s themselves looked back on Elizabethan politics to explain and justify their own situation. The republication of this piece urges scholars, once again, to reconsider the nature and longstanding importance of the debates surrounding Mary Queen of Scots and her captivity. This is a worthy endeavour, but many will agree that historians should proceed with caution on this difficult terrain. There is a danger in attempting to draw too close parallels because of that major historical schism that stands between the two crises: the civil wars and interregnum. By the 1680s, two decades disruption had taught people to fear Protestant dissenters as much as they feared Catholics. Equally important, although Collinson convincingly argues for independent capacity among the political nation during the 16th century, one cannot deny that after the Restoration, the size of that political nation and the way in which political action was organized had changed dramatically.
Professor Patrick Collinson - Telegraph
Overall, the collection gives the sense that Elizabethans succeeded in constructing a nation and not just a kingdom, despite Benedict Anderson’s famous assertion that nationalism is a modern phenomenon. Collinson demonstrates that the political community was active and engaged, and that certain ideas, texts, and moments in history served as rallying points around which an English national identity could form. The problem, though, was that this identity was an unstable one, and Collinson illuminates the fissures in Protestant discourses about the nation, and in the ways in which histories might reflect religious and political fault lines. For him, this explains why the nation eventually collapsed into civil war. But this ignores the problem of whether such constructions are ever entirely coherent and stable. Contradictions abound in any identity – individual or social, past, present and dare I say future – so what made the inconsistencies in the 16th-century English identity so problematic? To be fair, this is not a question that Collinson set out to answer, and it is the mark of a good book that it raises as many questions as it poses.
Also a number of essays on life in ..
The book closes with a chapter that attempts to better understand the motivation behind the writing of nostalgic histories – balancing the opening interest in a prophetic gaze forward with a longing gaze towards the past. Many of the men who wrote such texts were Catholic sympathizers, but this was not true in all cases, and Collinson offers William Lambard’s lament of lost monastic manuscripts as an example of devout Protestant nostalgia. Having acknowledged this, Collinson spends most of his time comparing the histories of John Stow and Richard Carew, and the varying degrees of sympathy for the Catholic past that each possessed while remaining conformable to the Church of England. Stow, whose Catholic sympathies were more pronounced, located the golden age of Merry England in the irrecoverable past, while Carew located it in present-day Cornwall. Collinson thus cautions against assuming that the English nation was constructed through histories, precisely because there were so many different visions of the past.
The Elizabethan Church and the New Religion | SpringerLink
Chapters six through eight function as a discussion of Protestantism and the nation, dedicating considerable space to John Foxe and his Acts and Monuments, after examining the nature of prophetic preaching. Chapter six thus reminds scholars of Collinson’s classic argument; that prophetic preaching, by its very nature, brought the nation together as a type of new Israel, but also provided the framework used by the godly when distinguishing themselves from the community at large. The prophetic mode, he claims, was thus ‘corrosive and divisive’ (p. 183). Several times throughout the collection Collinson suggests that this fundamental division in the nation was of central importance to the upheavals of the next century, returning to a more longue durée approach to the causes of the civil wars. This is part of a general attempt, already noted above, to link the histories of the 16th and 17th centuries after revisionism’s insistence on contingency and the importance of short-term causation had effectively severed the tie between them. Such comments remind us that a balance does indeed need to be established between too wide and too narrow a historical lens. Most would agree, however, that finding this balance is painstaking work, and this speaks to the one failing of This England. As each chapter has previously had to stand alone, none of the essays were composed with the luxury of the numerous pages required to explain the complex relationship between events separated by decades, leaving the proposed connections unrefined.