Theory, practice, and dialogue: The shaping of the early modern English politician
Gill, Steven Andrew
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This dissertation explores the lives and careers of English gentlemen at a time, the early-seventeenth century, when discourses on the formation of the English state, its size and scope, its function, and its personnel, were ubiquitous. As governmental authority was delegated increasingly to the provinces and as parliament met with greater frequency, English gentlemen adopted strategies to articulate their place in social and political hierarchies. To do so, they drew upon the knowledge that they acquired through education and formal instruction as governors and, more importantly, from the very concrete aspects of social and political life. This study contends that their preoccupations lay primarily with issues such as how to cement their status and reputation in the localities, how to manage their family estates, and how to finance their political careers. These facets were crucial to the shaping of early modern political identities. This dissertation engages several historiographical streams; among them are English state formation, participation in governance, parliamentary history, and manuscript culture. The empirical foci are Englishmen who were quite active as agents of the state and equally ambitious members of the gentry. Particular emphasis is placed on a few, namely John Hoskins, Sir Charles Cornwallis, and Sir Robert Phelips, who were punished for their missteps along the path to realizing their social and political aspirations. By highlighting these men and their cases, this dissertation examines a unique exchange—what I term "extra parliamentary dialogue"—comprised of spoken and written interactions between members of the gentry and the early-Stuart monarchs. Aside from revealing the practical concerns for status and reputation among the gentry, this dialogue demonstrates how notions of deference to authority, patron-client networking, and royal counsel represented an essential part of a successful career in local and national politics. Furthermore, this study follows this dialogue into the mid-seventeenth century, when professional and amateur manuscript collectors and copyists eagerly sought out and disseminated texts on genteel social and political life. As a whole, this dissertation offers a narrative on how the early modern English politician was shaped by a confluence of theories, practices, and dialogues, which were produced, acquired, and reproduced by gentlemen of the early and mid-seventeenth century.