Gentlemen & Thugs in 17th-Century Britain

Keith M. Brown questions the extent to which humanism and Renaissance courtliness had weaned the Stuart aristocracy from random acts of violence and taking the law into their own hands.

The 'taming' of the nobility is one of the major themes of the early modern histories of England and Scotland. There are a number of well known explanations: the growing disapproval of the crown, especially under James VI and I, who was persuaded from 1598 to tackle feuding in Scotland, and after 1613 to discourage duelling in England; the critique Of the honour code by Christian humanism, Renaissance courtliness, and Protestantism; the rapid development in litigation which still satisfied the taste for confrontation and revenge; and the prevalence of domestic and international peace from 1604-25.

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