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Stuart Successions Project

Moments of royal succession, which punctuate the Stuart era, occasioned outpourings of printed matter. Writers, including most of the major figures of the seventeenth century, seized upon these occasions: to mark the transition of power; to reflect upon the political structures and values of their nation; and to present themselves as authors worthy of patronage and recognition. Their compositions include panegyrics, satires, histories, polemical tracts, and works of counsel.

The Stuart Successions, a three-year, AHRC-funded, interdisciplinary project running from April 2012 in collaboration with the University of Exeter, contends that this body of succession literature was recognized by contemporaries as a distinct genre. Attending in detail to this genre, the project aims to demonstrate how an appreciation of succession writing may illuminate our understanding of the relationship between literature and politics, in a century when Britain confronted questions about the role of the monarch in intellectually powerful – and militarily damaging – ways. The ultimate goal is to revitalize debates about political literature and values across the Stuart era.

The Stuart Successions Project asks the following questions:

• How might we identify succession literature and what is its relation to other forms of writing in the period?
• How did the circumstances of particular successions inform the resultant literature, and how does such writing lend shape to perceptions of a monarch?
• How did succession writing develop across the century?

In seeking to answer these questions, the project will produce a range of bibliographical, editorial and interpretative work. At the centre of the project stands an online database, which will catalogue works published in response to each Stuart succession (1603, 1625, 1660, 1685, 1689, 1702), and therefore serve as a map to this hitherto unexplored field. Editorial work will lead to the publication of an anthology of primary material from across the Stuart era. The principal interpretative output will be a collection of essays, by an international range of scholars including members of the project team.

The book will bring together work that closely analyses specific historical moments and texts and research addressing how succession writing reveals larger patterns of change in literary practice and political values from across the period. The essays will be developed through the authors’ participation in colloquia in the UK and USA.

The project team consists of: Professor Andrew McRae (Principal Investigator); Dr. Paulina Kewes (Co-Investigator); Dr. John West (Associate Research Fellow). Two AHRC-funded postgraduate research students, Joseph Hone and Anna-Marie Linnell, will commence work in October 2012.

A more detailed project website is to follow. This site will be updated regularly, and will aim at once to involve stakeholders in key discussions and to present material to a wider public audience. A link will be added here when the site is up and running.