HIST2900: Domestic Dissidents: Intelligence and Surveillance in Early Modern Britain


Early Modern Britain is now recognised as having witnessed dramatic developments in relation to ‘state formation’, in terms of the enhanced power and remit of both central and local government, and yet this was also a state without an institutionalised police force. How then did the authorities police disaffected citizens, political and religious dissenters and, ultimately, plotters? This course addresses the role of the early modern state in intelligence and surveillance, from Elizabethan spymasters to Cromwellian codebreakers, and tackles everything from the politics of the parish community to Gunpowder Plotters and Royalist conspirators, as well as both the Puritan and Whig undergrounds in England and on the Continent. Doing so will provide a way of interrogating and exploiting a range of different kinds of contemporary sources, from the papers of key government ministers – like Lord Burghley and John Thurloe – to local records, parliamentary journals, newspapers and pamphlets, and state papers, as well as diplomatic correspondence. Such material, and the dissidents whose stories they contain, will provide a rich source of inspiration for individual research projects.