History

In Defense of ‘Arcadia’

Happier Days for Phil

Happier Days for Phil

Last week I wrote about the use of the work of John Adamson in Adam Nicolson’s Arcadia, and suggested he went too far – or didn’t qualify his terms properly – in applying Adamson’s view of the Long Parliament to the civil wars as a whole. In Nicolson’s defense, he later in the book offers this:

The world had changed and the central place in the workings of England the Pembrokes had occupied for so long was no longer available to them. The England they had known was now broken. Their conservative revolt against the crown has in turn released huge revolutionary energies in the country which had swept away their old dreams of a renewed and potent nobility. England, infused with these dreams of radical and universal freedom, was now for ten years to be subjected to a brutal military dictatorship which that threat of freedom had summoned from the Republican authorities.

We can tell where the fifth Baron Carnock stands on the Protectorate, at least. But he also allows in the passage above for the fact that the war was ultimately not a fight between royalist innovations and parliamentarian ancient rights – although, by the same token, he by implication places this shift later than most historians might. What Conrad Russell refers to (in Fall of British Monarchies, pg. 472) as “a sort of aristocratic conciliarism which would enable the peers and great officers to continue government in the king’s name unless or until he came to his senses” was surely done away with the moment war was declared; it was war, not Interregnum, which broke Pembroke’s England.

Still, it remains the case that Nicolson understands that Adamson’s work does not define the process and conclusion of the wars so much as its build-up. This awareness (and resulting ambivalence) makes Arcadia all the richer.

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One thought on “In Defense of ‘Arcadia’

  1. 5th Baron Carnock says:

    I am enjoying these weekly instalments very much and wanted to thank you for looking at it all so carefully.
    Yrs ever
    5th BC

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