The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Scotland

-Andrew DiSalvo Continue reading

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The Influence of Tudor Fashion during the Stuart Period

In Tudor and Stuart Britain, fashionable clothing was highly valued by both men and women and not just by monarchs; the people who comprised the court also took an interest as well.[1] As is the case with today’s generation, outfits, shoes, and accessories were worn to express a specific message to the public and represent some kind of social status. During these periods, the more elaborate and, arguably, over-the-top designs wealthy people wore, the more respect they earned. However, according to David Kuchta, the interest in men’s fashion decreased over time, creating a “masculine renunciation.”[2] Instead of the traditional flashy clothing and jewelry, men’s dress leaned more towards modesty.[3] Kuchta argues that the lack of interest in clothing was due to a number of factors: “… [The] changing political, economic and social orders from 1550 to 1850.”[4] In 1666, King Charles II attributed to this newfound modesty because of different coats and vests he wore that resulted in the popularization of the three-piece suit. While men’s styles certainly varied over the years, the appreciation for male fashions was still highly present throughout the period and was not entirely based on modernity. Similarities in men’s clothing between the Tudor and Stuart periods can be found through many paintings and portraits of this time; this source of documentation allows us to compare and contrast the style from different time periods. Continue reading

Somhairle Buidhe Mac Domhnaill and the Rathlin Island Massacre

To fully understand the importance of the role played by Somhairle Buidhe Mac Domhnaill in the early English failures of plantation in Ulster, one must appreciate the threat posed to the English crown by his background and lineage. Somhairle Buidhe Mac Domhnaill, which translates as Somerled of the yellow hair, son of Donell, more commonly known by his Anglicized name, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, was the son of Cather Maclan and Alexander MacDonald of Dunyvaig and the Glens in Antrim, who in turn were descended from King John of the Isles. During Somhairle’s youth, Alexander established a power base for his family in both Ulster and Scotland.[1] Because of this, Somhairle was seen as a Scottish-Irish fliath, a term used for any person belonging to a powerful family but who is not necessarily, as it often is presumed, a chief. However, Somhairle, his father, and brother each were, in fact, chiefs of the MacDonald clan. This essay will outline the series of events that demonstrate how Somhairle’s connections with both Scottish and Irish clans became to be viewed by the English as a threat to early English attempts at plantation in Ulster. Continue reading

A Comparison of Scientific Advancement in Scottish Universities and the Royal Society

The seventeenth century was a period of exciting scientific growth in Scotland and England. However, the platforms for this progress were different for each kingdom: in Scotland, it was within its universities that new science first took hold, whereas in England, scientific advancement was largely occurring within the Royal Society founded in 1660. The fact that one of these platforms were universities, and the other a private club, led to key differences in the transition and outcomes of scientific growth in the two kingdoms. The universities being a center of scientific inquiry was both a hindrance, due to the ability of church and state to exert control, as well as a benefit to Scotland because it enabled new knowledge to spread to students. While science in the Scottish universities seems to have lagged behind the Royal Society in taking on the new science at first, it accounted for Scotland’s uniquely prominent Enlightenment in the proceeding century, marking a different experience than in England. Continue reading

James VI and I: “Great Britain’s Solomon” or the “Wisest Fool in Christendom”?

The Union of the Crowns of 1603 was an historic event: James VI of Scotland, England’s neighbor and neutral ally since 1560, acceded the throne of England after Elizabeth I’s death, making him James VI of Scotland and James I of England and Ireland. Since James’ rule now extended over three different kingdoms, he aimed to find a way to unify them in order to ensure a solid footing during his reign. However, there have been varying opinions of how effective James was at doing this, but also how competent a king he was in the first place. These varying of opinions are evident when looking at the vastly different epithets that James earned, ranging from “Great Britain’s Solomon” to the “Wisest Fool in Christendom.” These diverging historiographical viewpoints raise the obvious question as to why there are so many varied opinions concerning James and his effectiveness as a ruler. Continue reading

The “Effeminate” King

There has always been speculation over James VI and I’s homosexuality. Historians remain divided over whether this is true or simply an attempt to slander James. While his sexuality remains a mystery, it is worth exploring why some of his contemporaries may have portrayed him as a homosexual. The basis of their suspicions was James’ tendency to choose young, attractive men as his companions. Another contributing factor was the cultural emphasis on masculinity. English upper-class culture has always associated masculinity with good leadership.[1] Thus, the king was expected to be virile and forceful. There were in fact times during James’s reign when his masculinity was questioned due to his decisions regarding foreign policy. The fact that James often opted for peace could have led observers to believe that he was gay, for according to Michael B. Young, “effeminacy was an integral part of Jacobean discourse about [homosexuality].”[2] Yet it is also possible that James’ contemporaries wanted to tarnish his memory. After all, sex between males was considered illegal and immoral. To remember James as a homosexual was the equivalent of considering him as perverted, and therefore an unworthy king. Continue reading