Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Oxford in the 1640s and 1650s

Royalist Capital and Commonwealth Melting-Pot: Oxford in the 1640s and 1650s

A conference to be held at St Anne’s College, Oxford
21-23 July 2006

From the time Charles I made his headquarters in the city in the autumn of 1642 to the Restoration in May 1660, Oxford gained extraordinary national importance. For nearly four years, as the royalist capital, it drew courtiers, gentlemen, painters, musicians, diplomats, spies, and bishops and clergy from England and Ireland; it was the seat of an alternative parliament and of a partisan newspaper, coins were struck and college plate melted down at royal command. As a city under siege, its population was swelled by soldiers and controversialists; the loyalties of local people were divided, but disease and fire struck indiscriminately. Following Oxford’s fall to parliamentary forces in 1646, General Fairfax ensured the survival of the university library, but for adherents of the royalist cause this was eclipsed by what they saw as the disastrous purge of academics in the wake of the parliamentary visitations of 1647-1648, and the consequent arrival of dangerous religious and political radicals. Much argument over the settlement of church and state, and over the education of clerical and lay elites, was indeed conducted in Oxford during the 1650s, but the decade also saw the early experiments of the physicians and natural philosophers who eventually became founder members of the Royal Society, and the city continued to draw distinguished foreign scholars. Men and women of all opinions could live quietly, pursuing antiquarianism or reading in the Bodleian Library. Proscribed prayer book services flourished underground, alongside more visible presbyterian and sectarian worship, and some traditionalists took the opportunity to plan the return of monarchy and the episcopal church.

The Oxford conference is an interdisciplinary colloquium, touching on political, religious, military, social, literary and cultural issues, and drawing together local, national and international perspectives. Speakers include Cliff Davies, Barbara Donagan, Ken Fincham, Rosemary Kelly, Anthony Milton, Jason Peacey, Mary Prior, Hugh de Quehen, Ian Roy, David Scott, Nigel Smith, Stephen Taylor, Bob Wilcher and Blair Worden. A provisional programme is available.

The conference will be held at St Anne’s College, where accommodation will be available. Registration forms for residential and non-residential attendance should be returned before 20 June 2006 to the organizer, Dr Vivienne Larminie, C17th Research editor, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, OUP, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP. Any queries may be addressed by email to vivienne.larminie@history.ox.ac.uk.


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