The Right Coast

October 25, 2004
The Teaching Company: Tudor and Stuart England
By Mike Rappaport

I just finished another superb course from the Teaching Company: The History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts. The lecturer, Robert Bucholz, is clear, balanced, and focuses on the significant issues.

I have been quite interested in British history, especially because of my work in constitutional originalism. I have researched particular aspects of the 17th and 18th century British Constitution, such as the King's power over spending or his veto. The course filled in the broader issues.

The story of England during this period is really fascinating, especially for those who love liberty. Without the emergence of liberty in Britain, the modern world would be far different and far worse. The traditional versions of the story -- either Whig history or socialist history -- seem deficient and Bucholz presents a balanced and believable tale.

One especially interesting part of the story involves the role of Catholics during this period. On the one hand, English liberty comes despite the limited persecution of Catholics, with Parliaments refusing to tolerate Catholics. This part is obviously unattractive. Yet, the situation is more complicated, because Catholicism involved international politics and an attempt to impose an unlimited monarchy on England. In this sense, the opposition and at times prejudice against Catholics was similar to the opposition to communists at various points in American history -- communists who sought to use lawful democratic means (as well as unlawful means) to take over the United States. Bucholz does a very good job of describing the morally ambiguous response of England to domestic and international Catholicism.