Sunday, January 13, 2008

Clarendon 1609-2009: History, Politics and Religion

A conference in the Clarendon building at the Bodleian Library, Oxford to mark the four hundredth anniversary of Clarendon’s birth, February 2009

In 1909, the tercentenary of the birth of Edward Hyde, first Earl of Clarendon (1609-1674) was marked in Oxford with a lecture by Sir Charles Firth. Firth’s negative assessment reflected the distaste of late nineteenth century whigs and liberals for an archetypical Tory. While their preference for what were judged to be the more radical and progressive political forces of the Civil War was by and large maintained throughout the twentieth century, of late historians and literary scholars have shown an increased interest in, and readiness to take more seriously, conservative and royalist beliefs and traditions; they have investigated more deeply the polemical literature of the 1640s, rather than concentrating on a handful of key texts; and they have been prepared to look at figures who spanned the middle years of the century, rather than to concentrate on one or other side of the great divide of the War. In the process, they have started to rediscover Clarendon’s stature. As a politician, his contribution to the royalist cause from the 1640s to the 1660s was little short of titanic. His contribution as a polemicist was hardly less significant: his declarations usually on behalf of the King in 1642-3 were among the most effective statements of the royalist case. As a historian, his History of the Rebellion provided to posterity a compelling account of England’s mid-century troubles. The most sophisticated work of history yet written in English (a standing it retained for many years afterwards), its publication in the reign of his granddaughter, Queen Anne, was a cultural and political phenomenon in its own right. And as a political thinker his response to Hobbes – often dismissed – has now been reassessed as a shrewd and powerful critique.

The Clarendon conference provides an opportunity to assess the current state of Clarendon’s reputation and to encourage further work on a figure of enormous importance for historians of politics, law, history and literature. It also marks the beginning of a major project to publish a complete edition of Clarendon’s works by Oxford University Press.

Contributions are invited on all aspects of Clarendon’s life, his works and his legacy. Please contact by 31 March 2008 either Martin Dzelzainis ( or Paul Seaward ( with proposals which should not exceed 200 words. Contributions at the conference will be limited to half an hour each; proceedings will end with a keynote public lecture by Professor Blair Worden, FBA.


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