Defining the Court's Political Thought (seminar)

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This was a fall 2000 semester seminar led by R. Malcolm Smuts. Visiting faculty included Lawrence M. Bryant (California State University at Chico), Pauline Croft (Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London), Lori Anne Ferrell (Claremont Graduate University), and Linda Levy Peck (George Washington University).

How should we conceive of the early modern English court as an intellectual environment? How should we define and delimit the concept of political thought within a court context? And how should we understand the relationship between political thought produced at court and political thought that takes the court-or some aspect of court life-as its central object? The seminar, one of the Center for the History of British Political Thought programs, explored these questions with reference to a range of specific topics, including the relation of honor to royal service and reward; the operation of court faction; the position of royal favorites; the problem of counsel; concepts of statecraft and the arcana imperii; ideas concerning royal prerogatives and the common law; and shifting understandings of the religious nature and obligations of kingship. In addition to secondary sources, readings included policy memoranda, court sermons, and theoretical writings by authors such as Francis Bacon and James I. The seminar also attended to the intellectual implications of poetry, theatrical entertainments, visual imagery, and ritual.

Director: R. Malcolm Smuts is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He is the author of Culture and Power in England (1999) and Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England (1987), and editor of Stuart Court and Europe: Essays in Politics and Political Culture (1996). Professor Smuts is also President of the North American Society for Court Studies.