UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Elizabethan society of antiquaries reassessed Jones, Helen Dorothy


The Elizabethan Society of Antiquaries has traditionally been regarded as a scholarly group which dissolved due to attrition and perhaps the suspicion of the ruling administration. A 1614 effort to recongregate failed due to James I's unfounded suspicions of the members' political intentions. This interpretation rests on the assumption that the discourses produced by members were the object of the Society, and that the members were primarily scholars. While the discourses required extensive research, they were superficial and uncritical, not representative of the standard of historical work of which some of the members, such as Camden, Stow and Lambarde, were capable. They did not justify in themselves either the amount of time which must have been expended on them, or the secrecy which the Society maintained. Close examination of the members' professional and patronage-related activities shows that they were not scholars, but highly placed and very busy functionaries of the central administration. They had politically powerful patrons, were drawn from all points on the political and religious spectrum, and had official duties throughout the country. Careful probing of their activities suggests that their political motive was to establish and prepare the ground for a widely acceptable successor to Elizabeth I. James' suspicions were soundly based on fact.

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