James I, Parliament and Faction

John Spiller examines interpretations of the role of Parliament in the reign of the first Stuart king.

Nineteenth-century Whig historians such as Lord Macaulay and S.R. Gardiner tended to be fairly critical of James I’s handling of the House of Commons, in the context of a ‘high road to civil war’ interpretation of his reign. William Notestein, speaking in 1924, seemed to continue in the same vein, arguing that ‘Few kings have been so fitted by nature to call forth an Opposition’ and that Parliament had somehow ‘won the initiative’ over the Crown by the 1620s in the long-term build-up to civil war. Particularly since Conrad Russell’s writings in the 1970s, however, opinion has swung towards the view that relations between James and his parliaments were more harmonious than was once thought.  

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