This month we have another indemnity case. The last one was about sequestration, which seems to be the most common type of case. Another very common complaint is that the petitioner is being sued for a horse, which occurs in about 10% of the surviving cases. This is not because there was a shortage of horses in England during the civil wars (Ian Gentles and John Shedd suggested that it was, but Peter Edwards has disproved it: see Gentles, New Model Army, p. 130; Shedd, ‘Legalism‘, p. 1096; Edwards, ‘Supply of Horses‘, pp. 55, 57). Although there were theoretically enough horses in England, soldiers often took them by force, sometimes because Parliament couldn’t provide them any other way, sometimes just because it was more convenient. Horses were valuable, and stealing them was usually taken very seriously. Despite this, the absolute number of horses involved in indemnity cases was quite small. Most horse seizure didn’t result in a court case. When it did, the soldiers who originally took the horses weren’t always directly involved. Horses could change hands many times, and under the Common Law, anyone in possession of a horse that was alleged to be stolen could be sued, even if they were not guilty of stealing it in the first place. This made horse cases very different from sequestration cases. Sequestration was very closely linked to allegiance: petitioners were under pressure to show that they had been loyal to Parliament and that the sequestered defendant hadn’t. Anne Hughes identified this as a general trend in indemnity cases, but horse cases are a significant exception (Hughes, ‘Parliamentary Tyranny‘, pp. 67–9; see my book, pp. 140–45, for a more detailed argument than I’ve given here). The horse might have passed through so many owners that it was a long way removed from the issues that the King and Parliament were fighting over. The crucial point for the Indemnity Committee to consider was whether the horse had been in the service of Parliament, not whether the petitioner had. This month’s petition is an example of this kind of case, where a long chain of ownership led to complicated court actions and then an appeal for indemnity. (more…)
Over at Love and Liberty, Alex Wilcock has been reminiscing about his friendship with Conrad Russell, and discussing the influence of Russell’s The Liberal Cause. So I thought I’d join in with the name-dropping. I only met Professor Russell (as historians knew him: the title that he’d actually earned seemed more important to him than the earldom he inherited) once, in 1997. I was in the first year of my PhD, and I went to the Tudor and Stuart research seminar that he organized at the IHR, to hear Peter Edwards speaking about arms imports in the civil wars. It was in the old local history room in the IHR library, which was huge before they chopped it up to make the Wolfson and Pollard rooms. When Pete’s paper was finished and the discussion was about to begin, Elizabeth Russell passed around ash trays, and although it seems endearing now, at the time I was shocked to see Conrad, Elizabeth and several students lighting up – the only time I’ve ever seen anyone smoking in a library! I guess that’s what the IHR rules meant by ‘privileged occasion’. I was privileged to be briefly introduced to him afterwards, which was enough to confirm that he was a very nice person as well as a brilliant historian and politician.
But enough of the anecdotes. As Alex’s post makes clear, Conrad Russell helped to ensure that Liberalism is the most intellectually rigorous set of principles on offer in British politics. Nick Clegg’s view of history in The Liberal Moment has some problems, but it’s quite impressive for the leader of a political party to write something that intelligent (Natalie Bennett could probably do better because she knows an awful lot about feminist history). Although I disapprove of many things that the Lib Dems have done in the coalition, I still want to vote for them because they’re the party whose principles I most agree with (although the Greens are the only other party that really has any principles at all).
But considering that Conrad Russell’s politics were so liberal, why was his historical writing so conservative? I still think he was absolutely right to destroy the Whig and Marxist models of 17th century history, because they offered very simplistic explanations and didn’t fit the facts (and were more similar to each other than they would admit). But revisionism had its limitations too. Russell’s work was mostly about the political elite. That’s fair enough to a certain extent because it’s what interested him and what he was good at. We all have to exclude more from our research than we include, and there’s no point forcing people to write about things they find boring. The problem is that if you take this approach in a book boldly titled The Causes of the English Civil War, with a definite article, it implies that there’s nothing more to the story. John Adamson has improved on Russell’s approach by showing that you can focus on high politics and still have a revolution. Adamson acknowledges that although the Lords started the revolution, they couldn’t achieve much without material help from lower levels of society, and he’s left space for other people (including me) to show how that worked in practice (and he might well add to that himself when he publishes the next volume – not this year but surely next year). Russell and Adamson both failed to analyse the implications of both houses of Parliament being exclusively male. Like many histories written by men, Russell’s analysis of Queen Henrietta Maria’s influence over Charles I was a bit misogynistic. For example, the Queen wrote to her husband in October 1646 “in tones more appropriate to a son than to a husband”, and the impression of Charles that emerges from her letters “could easily have been signed ‘Lady Macbeth’” (Conrad Russell, The Causes of the English Civil War (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990), pp. 205, 206; Frances Dolan may have made this point before but I can’t find a reference to it).
Previous posts in this series have covered sequestration (Parliament confiscating the estates of its enemies during the civil wars) and compounding (getting sequestered estates back by paying a fine). Sequestration led to lots of court cases, because although it was authorized by ordinances of Parliament, it was still technically illegal according to the Common Law. Parliament suppressed the law courts during the First Civil War, but they began to sit again when the war was over, creating opportunities to contest property rights, allegiance, and the legitimacy of the Long Parliament’s governing without the King. Many soldiers and officials were prosecuted for things they had done with the authority of Parliament. This led to the Indemnity Ordinance, which was implemented by the Indemnity Committee (I’ve written a brief guide to the committee and its records, now held by the UK National Archives). Ordinary civilians could also benefit from this if they were prosecuted for obeying Parliament. The majority of the petitions received by the committee were from tenants and debtors of sequestered delinquents who had paid the money they owed to the state and were sued for it by the original owner. This month’s document is one of these petitions. It adds an extra twist because it also involves the law of coverture. This denied married women the right to own property: with a few exceptions, any property a woman brought into a marriage was owned and controlled by her husband for the duration of the marriage. Mary Robinson from last month’s post owned an estate in her own right because she was a widow.
From ‘An Ordinance for taking away the Book of Common Prayer, and for establishing and putting in execution of the Directory for the publique worship of God’ passed by the Long Parliament in January 1645 (in Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum):
When any person departeth this life, let the dead body, upon the day of Burial, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for Publique Burial, and there immediately interred without any Ceremony.
And because the customes of kneeling down, and praying by, or towards the dead Corps, and other such usages in the place where it lies, before it be carried to Burial, are Superstitious: and for that praying, reading, and singing both in going to, and at the Grave, have been grosly abused, are no way beneficial to the dead, and have proved many wayes hurtful to the living, therefore let all such things be laid aside.
Howbeit, we judge it very convenient, that the Christian friends which accompany the dead body to the place appointed for publique Burial, do apply themselves to meditations and conferences suitable to the occasion: And, that the Minister, as upon other occasions, so at this time, if he be present, may put them in remembrance of their duty.
That this shall not extend to deny any civil respects or differences at the Burial, suitable to the rank and condition of the party deceased whiles he was living.
These rules were observed at Oliver Cromwell’s funeral on 23 November 1658. Although his effigy was brought from Somerset House with an ostentatious procession accompanied by cannon salutes, there was no ceremony once it reached Westminster Abbey (Ian Gentles, Oliver Cromwell: God’s Warrior and the English Revolution, pp. 196-7; Cromwell’s body had actually been buried in secret shortly after he died in September).
History shows that things were different in the past, so they could be different again in the future.
I’ve made a few changes to this blog, including changing the theme to use HTML5.
“But Stew, it looks just as boring as it did before. Where’s the huge carousel of superfluous images? It can’t be HTML5 without that, can it?”
The most noticeable change (at least for some people) is that the layout is more flexible than it used to be. The sidebar is now only absolutely positioned on the right on computer screens where the window is more than 700 pixels wide. In all other cases, it’s displayed at the bottom of the page where I hope it won’t get in the way. This was actually done with CSS 2.1, and I could have done it a long time ago if I’d bothered to find out how to do @media rules.
The new HTML5 markup probably won’t make much difference to most people, but I like it because it’s more semantic. I’ve used header, footer, nav and article tags instead of divs for everything. Although there are more tags available now, I find that they’re easier to use because they’re more logical and reflect what people really do.
I’ve also turned off ReCaptcha because it’s an obstacle to genuine commenters and doesn’t stop all spammers. Even with my unimpaired vision, I only have about a 50% success rate with captchas on other people’s blogs (this is one of the reasons why I particularly dislike Blogger).
I’d be grateful for any feedback on whether the new stuff does or doesn’t work, especially if you’re visually impaired and/or using a phone. I don’t care about whether anyone dislikes the aesthetics of my design: I just want it to be accessible to as many people as possible.
There’s also some new content today as I’ve started putting guides to historical records on static pages. The first is a guide to compounding cases in SP 23.