Change and continuity in English historical thought, c. 1590-1640
This is a survey and analysis of the writings of English historians in the half-century before 1640. It is based on manuscript as well as printed sources; an attempt is made throughout to connect English historiography with contemporary European works. The central argument is that while there was no radical break with medieval and Tudor historical thought, the meaning of the word 'history' had expanded by 1640 to include antiquarian and philological research, previously considered related and useful disciplines, but not regarded as 'history'. Attention is also drawn to the conspicuous rarity of historical debate in this period, to the problem of historical scepticism and to the historians' deterministic and teleological views of the past. The introduction briefly examines the words 'history' and 'historiography' and their Renaissance and modern meanings. Chapter I surveys the theoretical assumptions about history common in the period, of which Sir Walter Ralegh was a typical exponent. Certain Catholic authors dissented from the secular and sacred historical traditions accepted by most English protestants. Chapter II examines the theme of 'union' in early Jacobean historiography and offers detailed sections on the works of John Speed and William Martyn. Chapter III studies the historical thought of John Hayward and Samuel Daniel. Chapter IV discusses three antiquaries who also wrote narrative histories: William Camden, Francis Godwin and George Buck. Chapter V shows how history was used as a means of presenting advice to the king by Francis Bacon, Robert Cotton and William Habington. Chapter VI surveys the historiography of the ancient world, focusing on Degory Whear, Edmund Bolton, Peter Heylyn, Fulke Greville and certain other writers. Chapters VII and VIII discuss the historical works of John Selden, whose Historie of tithes marks an important break with several common assumptions about the writing of history and about the past itself. The last chapter examines the historical thought of Lord Herbert of Cherbury and surveys the minor historical literature of the 1630s. The conclusion reiterates the most important findings. An appendix establishes the correct identity of Edward Ayscu, an early Jacobean historian who is usually confused with several namesakes.