Bachelor of Arts
Leonard V. Smith
British Isles, Thirty Years War, Protestant, Scottish, British, English
The political situation of the British Isles changed from a uniting monarchy to a military-run, vaguely representative government over the course of a very short time during the 17th century. The Scottish and English populace overthrew their monarch for a majority of reasons, including economic and political ones, many of which have been studied extensively. This thesis addresses the less-emphasized religious reasonings that allowed for such a disruptive event supported by so many people, which can trace their roots to the Thirty Years War that began a few decades before these overarching changes in British society.
This thesis will investigate the impact the Thirty Years War had on the British populace. I argue that both English and Scottish subjects of the Stuarts felt for their fellow Protestants suffering in the Holy Roman Empire, and out of shared grief, religious passion, and devotion to other “members of one and the same mystical body, whereof Christ is head,” developed a sense of general Protestant community through their near obsession with the European conflict. It was this communal religious identity that gave them the foundations to begin imagining themselves as a people united behind their shared religion more than anything else, like a bishop or a royal government or even a monarch. From the study of a number of treatises, sermons, pamphlets, and newsbooks published about the war, I posit that the British understood the Continental religious conflict to be creeping into the British Isles in the guise of King Charles I Stuart’s unpopular Arminian Church policies in the 1630s, and that the common Protestant identity forged in the hearts and minds of the British through the Thirty Years War took on a new, more urgent, British flavor. With their religion threatened, the British people overcame confessional differences and geographical prejudices to stand together as a Protestant community defending their religion. While the need to defend their fellows that began to wash out the threads of English and Scottish religious variance was forged through the violence of the Thirty Years War, it was the specifically British side of the new religious threat that pushed the populace from its lingering religious and political difference into a common British Protestant identity and spurred them into a place where they could contemplate outright rebellion against a religiously hostile monarch.
Cohen, Shira, "“...Members of One and the Same Mystical Body…” Development of a British Protestant Identity During the Thirty Years War" (2019). Honors Papers. 119.