February 17th 2007


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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: The Qantas buyout - how to avoid tax

SCHOOLS: Education or political indoctrination?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Eight months for Howard to claw his way back

WATER: PM puts water on the agenda, but ...

BUSHFIRES: Fuel-reduction burn-offs needed - ACT Coroner

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Double double, toil and trouble / Choosing a new battlefield / Immigration mess / A fire sale for DFAT?

INTELLIGENCE CORNER: The next socialist Shangri-La / Downplaying the Islamist threat / Beware the Bear

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Pakistan feels jilted by US-India nuclear deal

SPECIAL FEATURE: The legacy of B.A. Santamaria

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY: Rights and wrongs in relationship recognition

PREGNANCY COUNSELLING: Health Minister Abbott's initiative attacked

OPINION: My unhappy memories of Julia

SCIENCE: WA bid to host $2 billion radio telescope

Milton Friedman let off far too lightly (letter)

Free-market capitalism and Christianity (letter)

The enemy in our midst (letter)

Nativity film defended (letter)

CINEMA: Heroism amidst inhumanity - Blood Diamond

CINEMA: Enchanting story for all ages - Miss Potter

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Those with superior intelligence need to learn to be wise

BOOKS: TREASON IN TUDOR ENGLAND: Politics and Paranoia, by Lacey Baldwin Smith

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BOOKS:
TREASON IN TUDOR ENGLAND: Politics and Paranoia, by Lacey Baldwin Smith


by Michael Daniel (reviewer)

News Weekly, February 17, 2007
A turbulent time

TREASON IN TUDOR ENGLAND:
Politics and Paranoia
by Lacey Baldwin Smith


(London: Pimlico, new edition)
Paperback: 352 pages, Rec. price: $30.00

Shakepeare's Macbeth — a text still read by most students — reflects an unsettling world view in which people are plotting against others to usurp power. Individuals cannot rest easy as someone is "out to get them".

Such a paranoid outlook on the world, found in the works of Shakespeare's contemporaries, reflected the mindset of people in the Tudor period, argues Lacey Baldwin Smith.

Central to the way in which people in Tudor England viewed the world was the belief that things are not as they appear and that the presence of evil is always nearby, ready to manipulate and destroy.

For this religious-minded society, Satan's agents, whom he had subverted to his ends, were everywhere, doing his destructive work. Hence, people were suspicious, even towards those closest to them.

Such an attitude was inculcated through the education system, which favoured texts such as the Book of Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) — one of the deuterocanonical books of the Bible (in Protestant Bibles part of the Apocrypha) — that reflected a similar world view.

This outlook was only reinforced by the number of attempted plots and uprisings that took place during this period.

It was widely believed that any act against the sovereign, even mild sedition, was one of the worst sins imaginable. People could face charges of treason, not only for plotting to assassinate the monarch, but also for religious non-conformity.

As the monarch could supposedly do no wrong, mistakes were blamed upon the monarch's counsellors, who, it was argued, were evil men who had deliberately given bad advice.

Such an outlook not only consolidated the paranoid Tudor mindset, but made life at court precarious, since bad advice could not only cost a courtier or minister his political career, but could result in execution on a charge of treason.

Baldwin Smith devotes the last section of his work to an examination of the rise and fall of Elizabeth I's one-time favourite, the Earl of Essex — who was beheaded for treason — as an illustration of his thesis.

The successive changes of religious allegiance by the Tudor monarchs — Henry VIII breaking with Rome, Edward VI consolidating Protestantism, Mary's attempt to restore Catholicism and Elizabeth I's reversion to Protestantism — greatly exacerbated the political volatility of the 16th-century and fuelled this paranoia.

Individuals who held religious views which differed from those of the monarch of the day were viewed as fifth columnists literally "hell bent" on subversion and destruction.

Treason in Tudor England is a fascinating portrait of the mindset of the English people in one of the most formative periods of its history and consciousness — and one which has had consequences for its daughter societies, including Australia.

This study also raises the question of the extent to which our own society today is beset by paranoia and imagined "bogeymen".




























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