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Title: Reading King James VI and I in the Civil War
Author: Marshall, Joseph
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2000
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This is a provisional account of the reception of the writings of King James VI of Scotland and I of England between 1584 and 1689, focusing on the period 1637-1660, in which a remarkable number of new editions of James’s works appeared for partisan political ends. Although he is popularly remembered today as a proponent of absolute monarchy, it has not been recognised hat in the seventeenth century James’s texts were very frequency exploited by those sympathetic to reforming the church and strengthening the position of Parliament. King James was strongly aware of the presence of his readers, and when writing as a private man he endeavoured to give them space and responsibility. However, James did not appreciate the extent to which this was empowering already strong reading communities based on religious opinions he was increasingly inclined to reject. The combination of a king with too much confidence in the communicability of the authorial meaning, and reading subjects with a fervent belief in the validity of their own interpretations of this secular Scripture, greatly contributed to the political tension of the 1620s, as one version of the royal will was invoked against another. King Charles’s distrust of the works which had transferred so much authority to the subject only exacerbated his conflict with Puritan readers upholding their interpretation of King James. The early Civil War controversies saw an overwhelming victory for the pamphleteers using James’s words for the Parliamentarian cause; the royalist pamphleteers could not or would not wield the king’s words as weapons with any degree of success. However, the outcome of the pamphlet war in 1642 was to transform approaches to James and his writings. The aura of royal authority was dispelled by the use of his words in cheap tracts, and the failure of the royalists to make James speak for King Charles drew attention to the way in which his words were bound by historical and literary context. The loss of faith in the tradition of using James’s words to articulate contemporary positions coincided with the fall of the monarchy; the attempt to redirect the king through reinterpreting his works was abandoned, and James, Charles and their words were rejected.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available