The French Religious Wars in English Political Thought

The French Religious Wars in English Political Thought

The French Religious Wars in English Political Thought

The French Religious Wars in English Political Thought

Excerpt

Political institutions are seldom constructed from a system of abstract beliefs: rather do they grow from the countless responses which individual men are compelled to make to the demands of transient situations. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to affirm that in their reactions to the practical problems which confront them men are uninfluenced by political principles. There can be no fixed boundary line between theory and event. The terms in which the last political crisis has been rationalized are the presuppositions which are brought to the solution of the next. In this study I have often been unable to distinguish between political theory and political history. I have been less concerned with the logical development of political doctrines than I have with the varying mood in which Englishmen employed French precedents and principles to interpret their own predicaments. For this reason I have examined the appearance in English politics of the ideas and models provided by the French Religious Wars chronologically, rather than by the logical juxtaposition of French and English concepts. At the same time I have endeavoured to draw such logical conclusions as seem to be justified.

The theme of the influence of the Wars of Religion in English politics would, perhaps, be more manageable if it were restricted to a more limited period than that which is here surveyed. Yet this would distort the conclusions in which it issued. Throughout the late sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries the English attitude to the Religious Wars varied in direction and intensity, and it is not to be properly understood in any one phase in isolation from its antecedents and consequences. To attain this wider perspective it has been necessary to draw upon a variety of sources uneven in quality and dissimilar in tone. Some of these have not, to my knowledge, been discussed in works concerned with the history of political thought. Many are, of course, familiar texts. The . . .

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