The Government of Scotland, 1560-1625

The Government of Scotland, 1560-1625

The Government of Scotland, 1560-1625

The Government of Scotland, 1560-1625


InThe Government of Scotland 1560-1625Goodare shows how Scotland was governed during the transition from Europe's decentralized medieval realms to modern sovereign states. The expanding institutions of government - crown, parliament, privy council, local courts - are detailed, but the book is structured around an analysis of governmentalprocesses. A new framework is offered for understanding the concept of 'centre and localities': centralization happenedinthe localities.

Various interest groups participated in government and influenced its decisions. The nobility, in particular, exercised influence at every level. There was also English influence, both before and after the union of crowns in 1603. It is argued that the crown's continuing involvement after 1603 shows the common idea of 'absentee monarchy' to be misconceived. Goodare also pays particular attention to the harsh impact of government in the Highlands - where the chiefs were not full members of 'Scottish' political society - and on the common people - who were also excluded from normal political participation.


This book has three aims. The first is to put Scotland on the map for those interested in the history of European government. To illustrate the need for this, we may visit Sicily. Sicilians in the early seventeenth century believed that only two parliaments still retained their traditional rights and powers: their own, and that of England. A distinguished historian offers the comment:

Clearly, these enthusiasts knew nothing about the States-General of the United
Provinces of the Netherlands, nor of the Polish Diet, the Swedish Riksdag, or of sev
eral of the German Landtage. But then, why should they have known about the dis
tant north of Europe?

Why indeed? But the omission here of one major institution in the 'distant north of Europe', the Scottish parliament, suggests that Scotland has been terra incognita not just to contemporary Sicilians, but to historians too. The role that parliament continued to play in the government of Scotland, the growth of personal monarchy notwithstanding, will be one of the themes of this book. Both personal monarchies and representative assemblies are themes of interest in a European context. It should be added that the book is not narrowly constitutional, but concentrates on how monarchies and assemblies, and other central and local institutions of government, were used by the political classes. It is a case study of how a late medieval European kingdom was transformed into an integrated state by the development of a more dense matrix of public authority.

The second aim is to provide materials for those interested in British history. Historians of England have found it useful to look beyond their own borders for the dynamics of early Stuart government: studies have exploited the explanatory power of the interaction between the different kingdoms of the British Isles, to elucidate such things as power politics in the court and early parliaments of James I, the restructuring of the church in three

H. G. Koenigsberger, 'The Parliament of Sicily and the Spanish Empire', in his Estates and
(Ithaca, NY, 1971), 80.

A fuller census of European parliaments, also omitting Scotland, is given by R. Zaller, 'Par
liament and the Crisis of European Liberty', in J. H. Hexter (ed.), Parliament and Liberty from
the Reign of Elizabeth to the Civil War
(Stanford, Calif., 1992), 202. There are signs that the neg
lect of Scotland's parliament is passing; it receives welcome attention in M. A. R. Graves, The
Parliaments of Early Modern Europe
(London, 2001). It also gained some contemporary inter
national recognition, at least outside Sicily. The Venetian ambassador to France in 1561 wrote:
'If any authority in France can control the absolute power of the king it is the assembly of the
three estates, who represent the whole kingdom, like the parliament in England and Scotland and
the Diet in Germany.' CSP Venetian, vii. 326.

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