The Politics of Counsel in England and Scotland, 1286-1707
Oxford University Press
10 Nov 2016
Counsel was a fundamental element of the theoretical framework and practical workings of medieval and early modern government. Good rule was to be ensured by governors hearing wise advisers. This process of counsel assumed particular importance in England and Scotland between the 14th and 17th centuries because of the close adherence to ideas of the common good, commonwealth, and community in this period. Yet this era saw major changes in who gave counsel and how it operated. This volume identifies both patterns and moments of change while also recognising continuities. It examines counsel in the context of Anglo-Scottish warfare and unions, the Reformations, and early colonising ventures, as well as in the contingent circumstances of individual reigns and long-term evolutions in the nature of government. Depicting counsel as ubiquitous yet archivally elusive, this volume uses government records, pamphlets, plays, poetry, histories, and oaths to establish a new framework for understanding advice. As it shows, a widespread belief in good counsel masked fundamental tensions between accountability and secrecy, inclusive representation and political cohesiveness, and between upholding and restraining sovereign authority.