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Reviewed by:
  • Freedom of Speech in Early Stuart England
  • Stanford Lehmberg
David Colclough . Freedom of Speech in Early Stuart England. Ideas in Context. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. xiv + 294 pp. index. illus. bibl. $75. ISBN: 0–521–84748–6.

This book is much broader than its title suggests. In fact it consists of four separate studies. The first chapter, headed "Parrhesia, or Licentiousness Baptised Freedom: The Rhetoric of Free Speech," deals with the sixteenth century; it shows that the concept of frank or bold free speech was borrowed by Tudor Humanists from the classical writers of Greece and Rome, and examines the "problem of counsel" encountered by advisors who held unpopular opinions. This is followed by an account of free speech and religion based largely on sermons preached under Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I. What is usually thought of as the problem of free speech in early Stuart England occupies the third chapter, a fairly traditional account of criticisms of royal policy by the House of Commons, with emphasis on the Apology of 1604 and the Great Protestation of 1621. The concluding section examines manuscript miscellanies, seventeenth-century collections of essays on free speech, with emphasis on the work of such relatively unknown figures as Robert Horn, Thomas Bywater, and John Hoskins. The basic argument is that the concept of free speech did not originate in Parliament, as is often thought, but that it was a matter of much broader concern. The several topics dealt with, however, do not always appear to be closely related to each other, and the result is a volume that seems to beat around its subject rather than confronting it in a unified way. Occasionally, especially in the last chapter, one feels that there is excessive quotation.

Colclough's writing is attractive and his analysis often acute and subtle. His use of recent sources is excellent, but he fails to mention some relevant earlier studies. Discussion of the problem of counsel, for instance, was really initiated by this reviewer's article "English Humanists, the Reformation, and the Problem of Counsel," published in the Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte in 1961, and the standard life of Sir Thomas Elyot is his biography dating from 1960. Some other [End Page 295] omissions, including the work of Pearl Hogrefe, could be cited. On the other hand, that the author teaches English rather than history means that he is familiar with works on literature and rhetoric that a single-minded historian might overlook.

Colclough is a lecturer at Queen Mary College in London. The book is part of the series Ideas in Context edited by Quentin Skinner, and Skinner's influence is evident in its conception and organization.

Stanford Lehmberg
University of Minnesota, Emeritus


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pp. 295-296
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Archived 2009
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