The Stuart Successions: fresh approaches to the understanding of seventeenth-century history and literature

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: English

Abstract

'The Stuart Successions: fresh approaches to the understanding of seventeenth-century history and literature' has been developed out of, and would immediately follow, the AHRC-funded 'Stuart Successions Project'. In this project we explored a category of writing which has long been recognized but never well understood. Each of the six Stuart successions (James I in 1603, Charles I in 1625, Charles II in 1660, James II in 1688, William III and Mary II in 1688-89, Anne in 1702) generated a wealth of publications. So did the accession to the role of Lord Protector by Oliver Cromwell in 1653, and that of his son Richard in 1658. Succession literature includes a range of elegies on the old monarch and panegyrics on the new; indeed most of the greatest poets of the day felt the need to participate in this activity, some on successive moments of transition. Other kinds of succession literature include histories, genealogies, sermons, satires, news-reports and political tracts. Through surveying and analyzing this material we have been able to throw fresh light on particular moments of transition and also on processes of change across this turbulent period of British history. Our outputs include a database of succession writing, a major volume of essays, and an anthology of primary texts.
As this research has demonstrated to us, however, Stuart succession literature holds more than merely academic interest. The Stuart era is widely recognized as a pivotal one in the development of British political and cultural life; it has an established place in the media and the cultural sector (e.g. museums), and recent reforms to school curricula, in History and English Literature, are according it increasing prominence. This is hardly surprising given the achievements and events of the period: Shakespeare was a Stuart for half of his working life; others to shape this century include Milton, Hobbes and Behn. The Stuart era included the greatest British civil war, an unprecedented experiment with republicanism, and eventually the founding of Great Britain itself. The topic of succession, meanwhile, is today pressing itself increasingly upon the public consciousness, as journalists and playwrights, among others, are already speculating about the impact of a third Caroline reign. In this context, we identify four user-communities with which our follow-on project will engage: secondary schoolchildren and their teachers; our partner organizations, united by their commitment to education about the past; media programme-makers; and the general public.
We propose a focused and collaborative project involving all three members of the current project team and four major partners: the Ashmolean Museum, the Bodleian Library, the Historical Association and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. It will be supported by Historyworks, a company committed to bringing academic research into the public domain in professional, creative and effective ways. We will select items drawn from the collections of partners, and work collaboratively to develop for each one a range of original interpretative materials. Among other outputs, we will produce: a bespoke website; learning materials (including lesson plans); a series of c.20 vodcasts (short documentary-style audio talks illustrated with still photographic images, suitable for publication via a website as well as for use by our partners); a one-day 'Shakespeare and the Stuarts' workshop for A-Level English and International Baccalaureate students; a 'Stuart Successions and Seventeenth-Century History' study day for secondary teachers; and treatments for radio and television programmes. The project is designed to combine quality impact directed at specified audiences with a commitment also to reach a much wider range of potentially interested parties. It also balances a focus on particular events with an interest in providing resources that will be of use across a longer period.

Planned Impact

Who might benefit?
We have identified four user-communities that will benefit from this project, and we have developed our proposal with these groups in mind. They are as follows.
1. Secondary-school teachers, trainee teachers and schoolchildren, working at higher levels in the disciplines of History and/or English Literature. We will address selected groups through specific events, but also ensure longevity of impact through other outputs.
2. Our partner organizations. A commitment to education and public engagement is shared by all four of our partner organizations (the Ashmolean Museum, the Bodleian Library, the Historical Association, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust). By working collaboratively towards our various outputs, with the intention of achieving greater impact by sharing outputs across multiple platforms, each of these organizations will also derive benefits.
3. Media organizations; radio and television programme makers. One goal of the project is to bridge the gap between our essentially academic project and the perspectives of programme makers. By doing so, we hope to demonstrate the potential value of our material and findings within this context.
4. The general public. While focusing on the core user-communities identified above, we expect benefits also to accrue for the general public, most notably those with an interest in the Stuart era, the political and cultural history of Britain, the history of the monarchy, and the topic of royal succession.

How might they benefit?
While the range of potential benefits is wide, we identify, as fundamental to the project, the following forms of benefit.

1. Those involved in education will derive benefits, both within the school-year 2015-16 and beyond. These benefits are accentuated by changes to History curricula, which have placed greater focus on early modern British political history. History teachers, therefore, many of whom are relatively unfamiliar with the Stuarts, are likely to be receptive to our efforts to provide them with engaging and research-informed routes into this field. Our methods will be collaborative, working with teachers and trainee teachers as we develop materials that will be of lasting value to them. Our events and learning materials, centring on particular texts and objects as routes into narratives and debates about the Stuart era, will provide vibrant avenues into teaching.
2. Our project partners are keen to identify new ways of engaging with user-groups, at a time when their own resources are stretched. We will use the partnerships not only to extend their missions, but equally to explore new methods of working, in association with academics who have developed expertise that may be applied to items in their holdings. They will all derive fresh exposure, and will work with us to create virtual outputs which they may deploy in multiple ways in the future.
3. Media organizations and programme makers are constantly looking for high-quality academic work that can be translated into forms for successful public dissemination. By preparing treatments for programmes, we will ensure that this user-group is made fully aware of the potential that the material and findings of the initial project hold. This approach, professionally supported by Historyworks staff, and exploiting also their media contacts, holds the potential to extend the impact of the project in subsequent years.
4. Among the general public, we note continuing high levels of interest in the Stuarts and the political history of Britain, and propose that our outputs will use engaging methods of exploration to extend understandings of this era and its defining conflicts. We also note growing levels of interest in the topic of royal succession, and suggest that there is as a result strong potential for a project which sets a major forthcoming event within a rich historical context.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Title Stuarts Online 
Description Stuarts Online is an open-access educational website containing short films and other learning resources relating to the Stuart era (1603-1714). It included an animated short film introducing the Stuart era. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The website was designed in collaboration with A-Level teachers, and it is used in schools and universities. 
URL http://stuarts-online.com/
 
Description This was an impact-oriented project, as opposed to a research project. We developed a suite of open-access educational materials for publication at stuarts-online.com.
Exploitation Route The project is designed to support teachers and students at schools.
Sectors Education
URL http://stuarts-online.com
 
Description This project produced impact in two forms: a) events; b) a website and associated digital products. We held two engagement events: one at the Bodelain Library with A-Level History teachers and one at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust with A-Level English students. These were designed both to publicize the work and to generate feedback on our work in progress. The website (stuarts-online.com), which was launched in 2016, and contains short films, based on texts or artefacts from the Stuart era, accompanied by further information and learning resources. It was developed in association with project partners: The Ashmolean Museum, the Bodleian Library, the Historical Association, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Technical development was contracted to Historyworks. We are confident that the website is being used - particularly in schools, our principal target-audience - and we are in the process of gathering data on usage.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal
 
Description Ashmolean 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Ashmolean Museum
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We worked with the Ashmolean, and our outputs should help to promote their collections.
Collaborator Contribution The Ashmolean supported us with the provision of materials (for photography and analysis) and the provision of expert input to our educational films.
Impact No outcomes yet.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Bodleian 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Bodleian Library
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have worked with the Bodleian, and our outputs will help to promote their holdings.
Collaborator Contribution The Bodleian has supported us with the provision of materials (for photography and analysis) and the provision of expert input to our educational films. They also supported us in staging a public event for History schoolteachers.
Impact Forthcoming
Start Year 2015
 
Description Historical Association 
Organisation Historical Association
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have worked with the Historical Association to develop resources for school-teachers.
Collaborator Contribution The HA has supported us in developing resources for school-teachers, and also in staging a study-day for teachers.
Impact Study day, Bodleian Library, January 2016.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Bodleian Study-Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 65 school-teachers attended this study day on 'Monarchy and Power in the Stuart Age' at the Bodleian Library. The aim was to promote our resources (currently in development) and to solicit their views about how best to complete these resources. The event included a public performance of 17th-century political ballads. The day was staged in collaboration with the Bodleian Library and the Historical Association.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Nottingham Shakespeare Society, Dr John West talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Former project PRA Dr John West gave a talk to a Shakespeare society in Nottingham, drawing upon ideas and material developed out of the academic project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description SBT Study Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This study-day on 'Shakespeare and the Stuart Monarchs' was delivered at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, in collaboration with SBT staff, for A-Level English and History students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Study Day, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 'Shakespeare and the Stuart Monarchs' was a study-day held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (in collaboration with SBT staff). It included input from two SBT lecturers as well as AHRC-funded researchers Andrew McRae (Exeter) and Paulina Kewes (Oxford). The audience included c.25 students and c.5 teachers. Participants reported gaining a greater appreciation of Shakespeare's works and the political dimensions of his plays.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016