History Student Conference – The Early Stuarts

A level History Student Conference on The Early Stuarts

On 4th December 2013 Post 16 History students attended a second A level conference in Birmingham where they had the opportunity to listen to lectures on The Early Stuarts, one of the examination topics at AS level.

Professor Kenneth Fincham, Kent University began the day with Rex Pacificus or the ‘Wisest Fool in Christendom?’ To what extent did James I realise his ambitions abroad? Professor Fincham’s lecture showed a very different side to the king who is forever famously associated with Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. He revealed James I as an international peace maker who united England and Scotland in agreement for the first time and helped to keep the peace in Europe for 15 of his 22 years as monarch.

Professor Ronald Hutton, Bristol University continued with An Uneasy Relationship: to what extent did finance damage James’s relations with his Parliaments? As well as being a prevalent author Professor Hutton is also well known for his numerous television appearances ranging from The Great British Bake Off to the recent mini-series Harlots, Housewives & Heroines: A 17th Century History for Girls. In contrast with his image as an international peacemaker Professor Hutton gave an entertaining lecture on James I and his financial ineptitude and its consequences. MPs expense scandals and slush funds are nothing new it seems; yet another example of history repeating itself!

Dr David Coast, Durham University delivered a lecture entitled “And as they pass, turn back and laugh at me”: why was George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham so unpopular? In his lecture he discussed the life of George Villiers, “Kings favourite or political liability” but certainly the most powerful man in England, save for the king, and some argue even more powerful. Dr Coast maintained that the Duke of Buckingham personified the controversy that existed between crown and parliament at a time when public opinion became an important factor in politics.

Professor Richard Cust, Birmingham University completed the day with The Man Who Would Be King: why did Charles I decide to rule without Parliament after 1629? In his lecture Professor Cust argued whether the personal rule of Charles II was “benign and benevolent or 11 years of tyranny”. This is the most intensely argued over period in English history when Parliament shifted from a body who traditionally counselled or advised the king to one that went over his head and appealed directly to the people. His comparison of Charles I with Margaret Thatcher as “conviction politicians” whose refusal to compromise (at least in public) led to their eventual downfall was particularly interesting. David Cameron beware!

‘Just like the day on Tsarist Russia the lectures were once again interesting and useful; they helped to remind me of what I need to revise for my examination. It was a great day out!’ Emily O

‘I enjoyed Professor Hutton’s lecture on James I relations with his Parliament the most. His description of the financial system in 17th Century England when the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Treasurer, the Secretary of State and other Members of Parliament were all locked up in the Tower of London for financial misconduct made us all laugh out loud!’Qamraan M

By Mr. S. Jackson