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Parliament and Political Pamphleteering in Fourteenth-Century England

Parliament and Political Pamphleteering in Fourteenth-Century England

Clementine Oliver
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt14brrq8
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  • Book Info
    Parliament and Political Pamphleteering in Fourteenth-Century England
    Book Description:

    "A timely and significant book...changing the landscape of political history and culture... a vindication of a striking argument about the ability of the medieval chattering classes to write, read, and hear pamphlets long before the arrival of printing. Persuasive and compelling." Professor W.M. Ormrod, University of York. Some sixty years before the advent of the printing press, the first political pamphlets about parliament circulated in the city of London. Often vitriolic and satirical, these handwritten pamphlets reported on a trilogy of parliamentary victories against the crown known as the Good, the Wonderful, and the Merciless Parliaments. The first pamphlets point to the existence of a market of readers hungry for news of parliament as well as to the emergence of public opinion as a political force. This book reconstructs the lives of the political pamphleteers as well as the political landscape of late fourteenth-century England, giving particular emphasis to the large group of bureaucrats living in London to which Geoffrey Chaucer belonged. Dr Clementine Oliver is Associate Professor of History at California State University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-856-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Where do Pamphlets Come From?
    (pp. 1-28)

    In the year 1641, pamphlets flew off the London presses like a flurry of snow. Some pamphlets were pro-Puritan tracts attacking the authority of the church, while others countered with satirical sermons intended by their Royalist authors to portray their adversaries as buffoons. Several used pornographic or scatological imagery to slander public figures. Scores of pamphlets reported on the massacres and atrocities of the Irish rebellion with a sensationalist flair, telling tales of rape and murder committed by the papists in Ireland. Many more advocated for the cause of the Long Parliament against Charles I’s personal rule.¹ And in so...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Good Parliament and the First Political Pamphlet
    (pp. 29-55)

    It was desperation that drove the government in 1376 to call parliament into session after a hiatus of some two years, for the crown was strapped with debt and this was the only way to raise the money required to continue the war against the French. Edward III was now too old to maintain direct involvement in the military enterprise he had started nearly forty years earlier, and his widely admired son the Black Prince lay on his deathbed at Kennington and would not live to see the conclusion of the parliament. Under the direction of the king’s next eldest...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Making of a Political Pamphleteer
    (pp. 56-83)

    In the autumn of 1387, reacting to the increasing influence of certain courtiers on King Richard II, a coalition of magnates known as the Appellants formally accused five of Richard’s favourites of treason.¹ Finding himself deprived of the support of much of his constituency, Richard acceded to a parliamentary hearing against the accused and, on 3 February 1388, parliament convened in the White Chamber at Westminster to decide the fate of several of Richard II’s most prominent supporters. As parliament began, the Lords Appellant entered the hall arm in arm, each wearing robes of gold cloth, and together genuflected to...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Reading and Writing about the Wonderful Parliament
    (pp. 84-116)

    The first thing to know about Thomas Fovent’s pamphlet is that the title is not his own.Historia siue narracio de modo et forma mirabilis parliamenti apud Westmonasterium anno domini millesimo CCCLXXXVJwas added by a rubricator or scribe to the Bodleian Library manuscript of the pamphlet soon after it was completed, for the title is in a late fourteenth century hand. Though richly descriptive, the title is misleading, for Fovent’s subject is not the parliament of 1386 but another parliament altogether, the so-called Merciless Parliament of 1388. The rubricator however seems to have taken this title from the prefatory...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Conspiracy Theories
    (pp. 117-141)

    In the previous chapter, I observed in passing that the more egregious of the Ricardian plots against the commissioners provoked Fovent to ridicule the conspirators with allusions to scripture, as he does at the end of this passage. For a brief moment here he seems to address his readers directly, punctuating the revelation of secret letters sent by the Ricardians to the king of France with a remark that is at once indignant and incredulous:Qui habet aures audiendi audiat.² Though such biting interjections are certainly colourful (particularly his description of the Ricardians labouring in the devil’s vineyard in connection...

  11. CHAPTER SIX From London’s Streets, 1388
    (pp. 142-173)

    Fovent’s description of the formal opening of the Merciless Parliament is very far from where he will take us as the trials proceed, to the gallows at Tyburn. I think he must relish the contrast, for even the most macabre moments of the parliamentary trials seem as delicious to him as the more stately ones. This chapter largely will consider Fovent’s account of the Merciless Parliament, giving particular attention to the way the city of London imprinted itself on his pamphlet. But first I would like to say something about the Appellants in their golden robes, their goodness resonating across...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN The End of the Merciless Parliament
    (pp. 174-184)

    The Merciless Parliament does not come to an end with Thomas Usk’s severed head set on London’s Newgate and neither does theHistoria, though Fovent’s London narrative now draws to a close. Those persons who have yet to stand trial have little connection with London politics, and Fovent’s enthusiasm seems to wane as they are brought before parliament. First to be dispensed with are the men who met with Richard at Nottingham in August of 1387 to answer the king’s infamous questions to the judges. Fovent condenses the narrative of the proceedings against the judges (Robert Belknap, John Holt, Roger...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Afterword
    (pp. 185-195)

    With these oft quoted prophetic lines of verse, Shakespeare ensured that Richard II’s end would not be forgotten, even by those who did not make a habit of reading the history of dead kings. At a distance of nearly two hundred years from the events that are the subject of his play, Shakespeare moved (and still moves) his audience to feel sorry for Richard, a sentiment that I doubt was shared by many of the king’s contemporaries, even by those who remained staunchly loyal to their king. For it seems that only two of the chronicles that narrate Richard’s fall...

  14. APPENDIX: A comparison of the Historia mirabilis parliamenti and the parliament rolls
    (pp. 196-208)
  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 209-224)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 225-232)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-237)