Great Courses: A History Of England From The Tudors To The Stuarts: Part 3, by Professor Robert Bucholz
In this, the third of four parts of a lengthy course on the history of England between 1485 and 1714, Professor Bucholz manages to discuss mostly narrative history. As has been noted before , this particular course divides its focus between a narrative history of the rule of the Tudors and Stuarts over the British Isles and a social history of how life was like for the population of England during that time. This particular part of the course skews heavily towards the narrative historical approach, as will be discussed shortly. Fortunately, this particular period of English history was full of drama, including the writing of Jacobean and restoration plays, the tragic history of the civil wars and foreign conflicts, and a great deal of political drama even when there were not wars to worry about. It also included some compelling figures like William Shakespeare and Samuel Pepys, whose involvement is discussed at least a little bit here . Those who have enjoyed the course so far will find a great deal to appreciate in the author’s winsome approach and his obvious knowledge in the behavior of court and Parliament.
In terms of its contents, this set of lectures consists of twelve lectures that take about six hours or so to watch (or listen to) as the case may be. The first lecture continues the previous part’s discussion on the life of common people by contrasting to the previous discussion of the social control of small towns the more free but also far more dangerous life in towns and cities as well as trade and colonization. After that the author spends a lecture talking about London and its growth through in-migration as well as its deadliness during the 17th century. A discussion of the culture of the Elizabethan and Jacobean age in terms of architecture and art and literature (including drama) follows. The remaining nine lectures consist of thoughtful and enlightening discussion of English history from 1603-1678, looking at the establishment of the Stuart dynasty, the period of ascendancy for the Duke of Buckingham, the struggles over religion and social control during the early part of Charles I’s reign, the crisis of the three kingdoms from 1637-1642, the period of the civil wars, the search for a Parliamentary settlement from 1649-1653, the period of the Cromwellian regime, the restoration settlement, and the failure of the Restoration in the face of foreign wars and domestic political problems.
This particular era of English history revealed a lot of serious problems. Religious consensus broke down and the seeming victory of the Puritans and their supporters during the English Civil War ended up in defeat because of an inability to forge an enduring settlement. During the 17th century we see the English people struggle to define who they are, not appreciating the loss of their traditions nor the deceptive behavior of their elites. We see minority groups struggling for toleration in an atmosphere of intense political competition involving trade, imperialism, and religion. There is a lot to look back on, as we see governments attempting to increase revenues while struggling with a populace that is not sure of exactly what sort of government and what sort of social controls it wants to support or that it is willing to tolerate. As has been the case previously, the author spends a lot of time talking about the chain of being and how it was under tension and strain in the face of conflicting political currents and ambivalent longings on the part of the population as a whole and its elites. Above all, this lecture looks at the weaknesses of the Stuarts as well as the complexities of the peoples they ruled or misruled.
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