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Royalism, Print and Censorship in Revolutionary England

Royalism, Print and Censorship in Revolutionary England

Jason McElligott
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Royalism, Print and Censorship in Revolutionary England
    Book Description:

    This is a study of a remarkable set of royalist newsbooks produced in conditions of strict secrecy in London during the late 1640s. It uses these flimsy, ephemeral sheets of paper to rethink the nature of both royalism and Civil War allegiance. Royalism, Print and Censorship in Revolutionary England moves beyond the simple and simplistic dichotomies of 'absolutism' versus 'constitutionalism'. In doing so, it offers a nuanced, innovative and exciting vision of a strangely neglected aspect of the Civil Wars. Print has always been seen as a radical, destabilizing force: an agent of social change and revolution. Royalism, Print and Censorship in Revolutionary England demonstrates, by contrast, how lively, vibrant and exciting the use of print as an agent of conservatism could be. It seeks to rescue the history of polemic in 1640s and 1650s England from an undue preoccupation with the factional squabbles of leading politicians. In doing so, it offers a fundamental reappraisal of the theory and practice of censorship in early-modern England, and of the way in which we should approach the history of books and print-culture. JASON McELLIGOTT is the J.P.R. Lyell Research Fellow in the History of the Early Modern Printed Book at Merton College, Oxford.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-590-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Jason McElligott
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Introduction: Royalism and its Problems
    (pp. 1-12)

    This is a study of a remarkable set of royalist newsbooks produced in London during the late 1640s. Books of weekly printed news – known to contemporaries as newsbooks – had first appeared in London during the turmoil of late 1641.¹ They quickly found a ready audience and by the summer of 1644 there were a dozen titles in production in the capital and at the royalist headquarters in Oxford, catering for a broad range of political and religious positions. Newsbooks became commonplace during the First Civil War but the royalist titles examined in this book were remarkable because they were published...

  7. 1 Royalists and Polemic in the 1640s
    (pp. 13-44)

    Charles I has traditionally been seen as a proud, haughty and aloof man unconcerned with the need to court public opinion.¹ He has often been portrayed, both consciously and unconsciously, as an arrogant, foppish snob, a devotee of courtly masques, fawning verse, extravagant architecture and opulent art who thumbed his nose at the increasingly obvious need to use the printing press to explain his controversial policies to his subjects during the first decade and a half of his reign. It is somewhat surprising that both his admirers and detractors have fashioned such broadly similar images of the king, although they...

  8. 2 The Politics of Sexual Libel
    (pp. 45-62)

    The remarkably sexual and sexualized contents of the newsbooks have ensured that scholars have traditionally believed them to be unworthy of serious historical research.¹ When Mercurius Melancholicus attacked the Presbyterian Assembly of Divines he portrayed it as ‘a whore . . . opening her empty quiver’ to the ‘golden shafts’ of the Parliament for ‘foure shillings a day’. In June 1648 another title carried a story about a soldier of the New Model Army who had been arrested for ‘Buggering of a Mare’. The offender was indicted, Elencticus said, and brought before the future regicide John Bradshaw, who asked him...

  9. 3 The Twists and Turns of Royalist Propaganda
    (pp. 63-92)

    The aim of the royalist newsbooks was very simple: to assist in the successful restoration of Charles I (and after the regicide, Charles II) on the best possible terms for the Stuarts. Yet if the aims of the newsbooks were simple, the short-term tactical manoeuvres forced upon them by the twists and turns of royal policy were remarkably convoluted and intricate. Some of the ‘aboutturns’ forced upon the Stuart kings were so quick and sharp that they must have disorientated and demoralized many royalists. There was always a danger that winning the new allies necessary to deliver a royal victory...

  10. 4 Authors, Shifting Allegiances and the Nature of Royalism
    (pp. 93-126)

    The nine known authors of the royalist newsbooks are John Berkenhead, John Cleveland, John Crouch, John Hackluyt, Marchamont Nedham, Martin Parker, Samuel Sheppard, John Taylor and George Wharton. There may have been a number of other men involved in a peripheral way in the writing of these serials, but the desire of the authorities in London to track down the culprits, the particular skills necessary to write and edit a newsbook, the size of the egos necessary to undertake such a dangerous task, and the benefits to be gained after the Restoration by identifying oneself as a royalist partisan during...

  11. 5 Printers, Publishers and the Royalist Underground
    (pp. 127-149)

    The previous chapter has shown that it is possible to reconstruct something of the motivations and concerns of the men who wrote royalist propaganda, but we know significantly less about the arguably much more important men and women behind the printing and publishing of this material. Authors, as we have seen, were in relatively plentiful supply and could easily move around the capital in order to avoid detection, but printing presses were bulky, immovable pieces of equipment which required the attention of skilled workers. The letter-type which was essential to the operation of the press was also bulky, took up...

  12. 6 Hunting the Royalist Press
    (pp. 150-182)

    This chapter will examine in detail the efforts of the authorities to detect and suppress the underground royalist newsbooks. Historians have been struck by the general state of disorder in London and throughout England during the late 1640s, and have accordingly taken a dim view of the ability of the authorities to impose their will upon the press during these years. Joseph Frank wrote that censorship had ‘completely broken down by late 1647’, and Joad Raymond claims that the central authorities were ‘complacent’ about the dangers of the royalist press and that the Stationers’ Company, the traditional first line of...

  13. 7 The Theory and Practice of Censorship
    (pp. 183-209)

    Until relatively recently it was generally thought that the early-modern English state exerted such a strict control over what was written and printed that the system of censorship could be likened to that of modern totalitarian states. The most important exponent of this idea was Frederick Siebert, whose highly influential (and staunchly Whig)Freedom of the Press in England, 1476–1776 first appeared in the United States at the height of the Cold War in 1952. Siebert likened government control of the press in early-modern England to that in Communist Russia, and for him it was axiomatic that successive governments...

  14. 8 A New Model of Press Censorship
    (pp. 210-224)

    The preceding chapters have described the process by which the authorities in London tracked down and suppressed the royalist press in the late 1640s, and suggested that the currently accepted model for the relationship between government and the press in early-modern England is fatally flawed. Having deconstructed the ‘new orthodoxy’ on censorship this chapter will put forward a number of propositions which go some way towards constructing a new model of how censorship of the press operated in the era of pre-publication licensing. These conclusions are based upon a consideration of the way the Cromwellian regime suppressed the royalist press...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 225-228)

    We do not know enough about royalism. This important gap in our knowledge of the Civil Wars is due to the neglect of loyalism by most historians of the period and the conceptual and methodological conservatism of those who are interested in the men who supported the Stuarts. This book cannot plug all of the gaps in our knowledge of royalism but it is intended to sketch a way of approaching the subject which may be of benefit to others. The poorly printed ephemeral royalist newsbooks provide a unique perspective on the political and religious turmoil which engulfed Britain during...

  16. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 229-268)
  17. Index
    (pp. 269-274)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 275-275)