Symposium on Rethinking the State Trials: The Politics of Justice in Later Stuart England

Great Seal of King James I, King of England. Licence for alienation of land, 1616, Newberry Wing MS ZW 1 .616
Great Seal of James I, King of England. Licence for alienation of land, 1616, Newberry Wing MS ZW 1 .616
Center for Renaissance Studies Programs
Other Renaissance Programs
Thursday, April 10, 2014 to Friday, April 11, 2014

Ruggles Hall

Organized by Brian Cowan, McGill University, and Scott Sowerby, Northwestern University.

State trials were the quintessential media events of later Stuart England. The more important of these trials attracted vast public attention, serving as pivot points in the relationship between the governors and the governed. Later Stuart England, the period between the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 and the Hanoverian succession of 1714, has long been known among legal historians for a series of key cases in which juries successfully asserted their independence from judges. In political history, the government’s shaky control over political trials in this period has long been taken as a sign of the waning power of the crown and the rise of constitutional liberties. More recently, as historians have turned to the study of political culture, the state trials, or those trials in which matters of constitutional importance were at stake, have received renewed attention. Historians have turned to the many eighteenth-century compilations of English state trials, several of which are found in the Newberry’s holdings, to answer new questions about the means by which a vibrant, highly partisan and increasingly dynamic public sphere developed in late seventeenth and early eighteenth century England.

This symposium aims to assess these new developments in political, legal, and cultural history and chart a new research agenda for the study of the English state trials.

Download a printable PDF flyer to post and distribute.

Thursday, April 10

Leopold Room, Harris Hall 108, Northwestern University

4 pm: Keynote address

“State Trials and the Rule of Law under Charles II: Some Reflections”

Tim Harris, Munro-Goodwin-Wilkinson Professor in European History, Brown University

5:15 pm: Reception

Friday, April 11

Ruggles Hall, The Newberry Library

9 to 9:30 am: Check-in; coffee and continental breakfast

9:30 to 10:45 am: Session 1

Chair: James Sack, Professor of History, University of Illinois at Chicago

“Constructing Conspiracy: Print, Manuscript, Speech, and Place in State Trials Associated with the Rye House Plot”

Newton Key, Professor of History, Eastern Illinois University

“The Trial, Execution, and Responses to the Execution of Oliver Plunkett, with a Discussion of the Trials of the Alleged Popish Plot Conspirators”

John Marshall, Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University

“ ‘Blood will have Blood’: The Regicide Trials and the Popular Press”

Melinda Zook, Associate Professor of History, Purdue University

10:45 to 11 am: Coffee

11 am to 12:15 pm: Session 2

Chair: Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, Assistant Professor of History, University of Chicago

“Corruption and Later Stuart State Trials”

Mark Knights, Professor of History, University of Warwick

“Politics and Sentiment in the Jacobite State Trials, 1719–37”

Paul Monod, A. Barton Hepburn Professor of History, Middlebury College

“Defeating Innuendoes: Thomas Rosewell (1684) and Daniel Isaac Eaton (1794)”

Annabel Patterson, Sterling Professor Emeritus of English, Yale University

12:15 to 2 pm: Lunch break

2 to 3 pm: Session 3

Chair: Robert Bucholz, Professor and Chair of History, Loyola University Chicago

“The Trial of Benjamin Keach: Performing Justice and Martyrdom in Restoration Nonconformity”

Justin Irwin, graduate student in History, McGill University

“Enforcing Uniformity: Public Reactions to the Seven Bishops Trial”

Scott Sowerby, Assistant Professor of History, Northwestern University

3 to 3:15 pm: Coffee

3:15 to 4:15 pm: Session 4

Chair: Tim Harris, Munro-Goodwin-Wilkinson Professor in European History, Brown University

“Relitigating Revolution: Address, Progress, and Redress in the Long Summer of 1710”

Brian Cowan, Associate Professor of History, McGill University

“State Trials 2.0”

Elliott Visconsi, Associate Professor of English, University of Notre Dame

4:15 to 4:45 pm: Closing comments

Stephen Taylor, Professor of History, Durham University

Cosponsored with the Alumnae of Northwestern University, the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies at Northwestern, the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern, and the Department of History at Northwestern.

Faculty and graduate students of Center for Renaissance Studies consortium institutions may be eligible to apply for travel funds to attend CRS programs or to do research at the Newberry Library. Each member university sets its own policies and deadlines; contact your Representative Council member in advance for details.

Cost and registration information: 

Registration is now closed.