Thursday, 27 October 2011

Further comment on Does the Work of British Historian John Adamson” Break New Ground

I am grateful for this comment although, alas, I do not think it is right. After his discussion of the dissolution of the Short Parliament, John Adamson did not proceed directly to a discussion of the Petition of the 12 peers but analysed the attitudes of the 2nd Earl of Warwick and his allies towards the Caroline regime in the 1630s and the evidence for collusion in the summer of 1640 between the members of the aristocratic Junto and the Scottish Covenanters.

He identified Maurice Thompson, John Venn and Richard Shute (Noble revolt, page 79) as the bearers of the petition from London supporting the peers' petition: Thompson and Venn had had links with Warwick through their interests in colonization since the late-1620s and in the 1630s, so his point is valid.

There is, in fact, a mass of material in The Noble Revolt on the importance of popular pressures on the proceedings of the two Houses in 1640-1642: if you do not believe me, please read Pages 285-288 on the end of Strafford's life or Pages 468-477 on tumults in the capital. He was and is interested in the impact of demonstrations and the threat of violence in London in this and succeeding periods.

Fortunately, a lot is known about how these demonstrations, etc., were organised from the works of Valerie Pearl, Robert Ashton, Keith Lindley and others. (See Clarendon Ms.20, fol.129 for Venn's role in coordinating such demonstrations.)It is, in any event, for John Adamson to develop his arguments as he wishes rather than meeting old-fashioned Marxist prescriptions.
(This post was forwarded to me by Chris Thompson. It was left anonymously on his blog. I am publishing because while not agreeing with every point it does have something to add to the debate. Chris Thompson’s remarks are also included)


It seems to me that most of the valid intellectual work Adamson's narrative accomplishes was better done by your own work on the "middle group. “Then there are the problems. The valid nugget in Livesey's discontent, I think, is that Adamson has little patience for or interest in what might be called popular mobilization, even though this was what gave aristocratic politics its bite. And his treatment of the events of 1640--the only moment concerning which I have sufficient expertise to comment--is riddled with significant omissions and errors (example omission: he skips directly from the dissolution of the Short Parliament to the Lords' Petition, without offering to explain the summer's agitation; example error: he claims the London Petition was carried by clients of Warwick). While errors are an unavoidable part of the scholarly process, these seem more like errors of opportunity to me, opportunities to affirm the centrality of the figures in his study to the politics of that year.

For me, the main value of Adamson's work is to reopen the problem of the politics of the early 1640s. Which is a legitimate accomplishment. But I understand Livesey's uneasiness.

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