Professor Andrew Hiscock, Bangor University


This enquiry brings to fruition a major re-evaluation of early modern perceptions of war and conflict resolution which Hiscock has been researching for five years. It develops from his recent publications and aims to provide an in-depth analysis of debates surrounding the justification of, engagement in, and effective management of war in order to protect or further perceived English religious, political or imperial interests. This project concentrates upon a key formative moment for the nation with vigorous debate at court, in Parliament, in the theatres, in publications and in private correspondence concerning the merits or otherwise of military engagement, and will be governed by three axes: chronological (representations of warfare over time); geographical (representations of warfare across three European cultures – England, France and Spain); and cultural (close comparative readings of the textual genres adopted by Shakespeare, Ralegh, Essex and Middleton). It extends chronologically from the Spanish Armada (1588) to Ralegh’s execution and the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War (1618) – a watershed moment in James VI/I’s weakening hold on the belligerence of many of his subjects, and on the title of ‘rex pacificus’ in Europe. This declaration of hostilities forms a natural terminus for the consideration of the previous three decades in English cultural debates on religious, political, and/or colonial militarism. These debates acknowledged the influences of earlier humanist writings, were enriched during the period by meditations such as Gentili’s treatises, and were summarised and refined at the close of the proposed timespan of this project by Grotius. \n\nDue attention is paid to key classical/medieval legacies (e.g. Vegetius, Frontinus, Augustine, Aquinas, chronicles) and humanist writings (e.g. Erasmus, More, Machiavelli) which often shaped later debate concerning: the just war; the war commander; effective policy-making; and the protection of collective interests. Existing scholarship, though often extremely influential, has not studied the four chosen figures on an equal footing and has often neglected the diversity of genres which they exploited – history play, history, erotic poetry, prefaces, colonial pamphlets, letters of advice, strategy papers, speeches, religious polemic, translation, pageants. This enquiry considers Essex’s diplomatic correspondence in French with Henri IV and de Mornay, and James I’s correspondence with the Spanish Court (notably through Count Gondomar). Rather than limiting Ralegh’s appreciations of warfare to his colonial pamphlets and chronicle (as is so often the case), this project links his essays on questions of foreign policy, military logistics and imperial ambition directly to his meditations on ‘the just war’. Due attention is also devoted to correspondence to and from Essex and his political intimates, and to Middleton’s ongoing concern with the role of the military in civilian society as represented in his pageantry, city comedies and tragedies (supported by the enormous resources now made available by the Oxford Middleton). These three substantial areas of research will inevitably offer fresh occasions to reflect upon the ways in which Shakespeare’s second tetralogy explores issues of: usurpation; the obligations of sovereignty; the just war; and the introduction of military hostilities into civilian society. The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have not remained foreign to the meditation of and engagement in large-scale military campaigns, and thus it remains unsurprising that early modern literary and historical scholarship has gravitated repeatedly to these concerns. This debate remains as lively in our own times as it was 400 years ago and the documents of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century offer valuable opportunities to interrogate our own continuing cult.


Professor Andrew Hiscock

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