Counsel and Command in Anglophone Political Thought, 1485-1651
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This thesis investigates the role and vocabulary of ‘political counsel’ in Anglophone discourse from the end of the Wars of the Roses (1485) to the end of the English Civil War (1651), demonstrating its importance as a parallel concept to sovereignty. Whereas theories of monarchical power and sovereign command have been thoroughly explored in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, counsel has received comparatively little attention. The principal aim of this thesis is to correct this imbalance by presenting a broad exploration of the concept and related themes. Part I treats the Henrician period from the accession of Henry VII in 1485 to the death of Henry VIII in 1547, exploring the English humanist discourse of political counsel in this period. In Part II, covering the remaining decades of the Tudor era (1547-1603), the combined challenge to this tradition presented by Machiavellian discourse and the perceptions of an English monarchy ‘weakened’ by the accession of young and female rulers is explored. Particular attention is paid to the resultant suspicion of the figure of the counsellor and the increasing institutionalisation of counsel. Finally, in Part III the thesis turns to the discourse of political counsel in the first half of the seventeenth century, with emphasis on the ‘reason of state’ tradition, and the vocabulary of counsel in civil war propaganda. The thesis ends with a consideration of the work of Henry Parker and Thomas Hobbes, noting that whereas the humanist tradition had emphasised the separation of counsel and command, both the parliamentarianism espoused by Parker and Hobbes’s state theory – arguably the precursors of modern political thought – subsume counsel under sovereign authority, focusing on the latter as the relevant topic for political thought.
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