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Epilogue: The Crisis of the Common Law

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Abstract

How might we summarize the changing patterns of political discourse in early Stuart England? Like most complex societies, England in the early-seventeenth century was characterized by complicated and subtle structures of discourse. It is only at our peril that we attempt to read particular uses of the political languages of the period without first uncovering the structures that helped to give them meaning. Part II of this book has attempted to sketch a model of these structures. Like all models it simplifies and abstracts from reality. It also tends, by the very nature of being reduced to writing, to convert unspoken, internalized conventions into written rules, and to make the whole look too schematic. But the real test of a model must be whether it goes with, or cuts against, the grain of the reality it attempts to model. If it does the former then it will prove enlightening, whatever its simplicities.

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Notes

  1. 1.
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  2. 2.
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    Proceedings of the Short Parliament (ed. Cope & Coates), p. 209. There is some interesting material on St John’s position in the years 1640–41 in William Palmer, ‘Oliver St John and the Legal Language of Revolution in England, 1640–1642’, The Historian vol. 51 (1989), pp. 263–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  38. 70.
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  45. 74.
    Martyn P. Thompson, ‘A Note on “Reason” and “History” in Late Seventeenth Century Thought’, Political Theory vol. 4 (1976), pp. 491–504. See also Thompson, ‘The History of Fundamental Law in Political Thought from the French Wars of Religion to the American Revolution’, American Historical Review vol. 91 (1986), pp. 1103–1128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© Glenn Burgess 1992

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