James II and the “Glorious Revolution” 1685-88
James II was Britain’s shortest-reigning monarch of the entire early modern age – yet his brief rule caused a dramatic rupture, which in turn opened the door to the transformation of the kingdom into the constitutional, commercial, imperial state that we know as modern Britain… We consider the complex life and personality of the ill-fated king, as well as the class conflicts and ideological shifts that let to the so-called “Glorious Revolution” and the beginnings of the modern state…
England, Interrupted: The Interregnum and Restoration, 1650-1685
What happened to England in the power vacuum left in the wake of the execution of Charles I? Why were the Puritans, so pious in morals and strict in governance, unable to create a lasting Commonwealth? And why did the return of the monarchy unleash a wave of lewd hedonism that is shocking even more than three centuries later?
The explosion of empire, the slave trade, religious toleration, the modern metropolis of London, and the enshrinement of theater as the English national art form, and the constitutional balance of power still in place in both Britain and the United States all have their roots in the tumultuous years from 1650 to 1685; if there is any period of English history that you must know in order to understand the present, it is this one…
Becoming Modern: The Road to Civil War – Class Conflict and Constitutional Crisis in Stuart England, 1603-1650
Struggles between chief executives and legislatures are dominating the news on both sides of the Atlantic, as Americans debate impeachment and the UK is engulfed by a Brexistential crisis. Most of the terms and precedents for these struggles go back to the 1600s and King Charles I’s efforts to govern without the support of Parliament, which led to political backlash, civil war, and social upheaval from the halls of Westminster to the smallest peasant farmsteads…
Becoming Modern: Age of Absolutism 2 – Tudor England, 1485-1603
We follow the five Tudor monarchs’ struggle to consolidate power in royal hands and forestall a collapse back into the civil wars that ravaged England in the 1400s. Beyond the soap operas of Henry VIII’s marriages or Elizabeth’s love affairs, we consider the real workings of power, money, and propaganda as England rises from a European backwater to a commercial powerhouse and leader of the Protestant world, especially as seen from the viewpoint of the Dudleys, the longest-surviving family of royal consiglieri operating behind the Tudor throne….
The Middle Ages: Crossing the Waters – Britain in the Dark Age
Romans, Brythons, Picts, Angles, Gaels, Saxons, and Jutes – how did this kaleidoscopic welter of contending tribes crystallize into the medieval Christian kingdoms we know as England and Scotland? We consider the most tumultuous and mysterious period in British history, following the Roman withdrawal, as locals and Germanic migrants sought to assert power and maintain stability. Despite the great uncertainty, Britons mastered new knowledge, developed a poetic tradition, and passed on an enduring romance around the sacred power of water…
Middle Ages 11: The Pulsating Body – The Medieval World View
We cap off the series of lectures on the Middle Ages by piecing together how the people of the high and late Middle Ages understood their place in the cosmos. From the lowliest peasants to popes and emperors, medievals believed they formed the limbs of a living, breathing social body, and that body or tree was part of a Great Chain of Being connecting rocks and dirt to stars and planets and ultimately to God. Through these metaphors we can understand why medievals disapproved of commerce and abhorred high finance. We end with a commentary on the great, crowning statement of the late medieval mind, the prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales…
The Middle Ages: 1066 – Sailing Into the Storm
1066 – the year of the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest – is the most famous date in English history. Few understand, though, that far more happened in this cataclysmic and pivotal year than just the Norman defeat of an English army on a field in East Sussex. The culmination of centuries of shifting struggle over control of England, the events of 1066 show how even epochal changes in a society can hinge on minor accidents of timing, weather, health, and personal choice…
The Middle Ages: Anglo-Saxon England and the Vikings, 757-1066
How did a set of seven fractious kingdoms unite into a new kingdom, known as “England,” while under almost constant attack by Viking berserkers from across the North Sea?
- Becoming Modern: The Print and Gunpowder Revolutions, 1300-1700
- Doorways in Time: The Great Archaeological Finds #1: The Sutton Hoo Treasure
- Who was Shakespeare? A Four Episode Cycle
- Emergency Podcast: The Royal Crisis in Historical Context
- Monarchy, Honours, and the Molding of Modern Society – A Conversation with Tobias Harper
- From the Cotswolds to Cool Britannia – observations on a trip through England