Patriotism, Power and Print: National Consciousness in Tudor England

Article excerpt

Brennan, Gillian. Patriotism, Power and Print: National Consciousness in Tudor England. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2003. 160 pp. $60.

Gillian Brennan's Patriotism, Power and Print is a thorough, well-researched history of the concepts of "patriotism" and "nationalism" in Tudor England. Working from pamphlets, treatises, and various forms of religious and political propaganda, she provides a convincing repudiation of what has become the accepted narrative for the spread of English dominance throughout the British Isles and its national history vis-a-vis the rest of Europe.

Among her notable conclusions are some well proven claims: the proliferation of the English language throughout Great Britain came not so much through the imposition of English imperial will but rather through the necessity of governance of an uneducated populace by a widely-dispersed judiciary and administration directed from London; die use of the vernacular in England was less a matter of an intentional monarchical strategy to foster national unity than a need to keep order; the translation of the Bible into the various vernaculars of the nascent island kingdom was far from unanimously applauded among English elites; and the function of English in solidifying Protestant control was often less an intention to define the country as a Protestant stronghold than, again, a necessary strategy for retaining control over a realm plagued by sectarian strife and political avance.

Brennan turns first to the topic of patriotism, pointing out that numerous threads of political thought at the beginning of the sixteenth century came together to create a patriotic environment. Notably, there was a transition among educated elites from a provincial or international culture towards a greater awareness of national interest. Particularly important to this development were the ideals espoused by the "commonwealthmen," who, under the influence of civic humanism, dedicated their writings to the bolstering of the monarchy. The pamphlets and treatises published by the commonwealthmen coincided with Henry VIII's own propaganda needs following the break with Rome: the 153Os were a period in winch the monarchy became identified with the nation. …