A godly law? Bulstrode Whitelocke, puritanism, and the common law in seventeenth-century England
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Debates surrounding both the church and the law played an important role in the conflicts that marked seventeenth-century England. Calls for reform of the law in the Civil Wars and Interregnum complicated the apparent relationship between puritanism and the common law, as the first fragmented and the second came under attack in the 1640s and 1650s. This article first analyses the common lawyer Bulstrode Whitelocke's historical and constitutional writings that defended the common law against demands for its reform and argued that its legitimacy derived from its origins in, and resemblances to, the law of Moses. Refraining from the radical application of this model employed by some contemporaries, Whitelocke instead turned to British history to make his case. This article then examines Whitelocke's views of the relationship between common law and ecclesiastical jurisdiction in his own day, showing how, both as a lawyer and as a puritan, he navigated laws demanding religious conformity. Whitelocke's career therefore demonstrates how lawyers could negotiate the fraught relationship between the church and the law in the aftermath of the reconfigurations provoked by the Civil Wars and Restoration.
Rose , J E 2020 , A godly law? Bulstrode Whitelocke, puritanism, and the common law in seventeenth-century England . in Studies in Church History . Studies in Church History , vol. 56 , Cambridge University Press , pp. 273-287 . https://doi.org/10.1017/stc.2019.15
Studies in Church History
© Ecclesiastical History Society 2020. This work has been made available online in accordance with publisher policies or with permission. Permission for further reuse of this content should be sought from the publisher or the rights holder. This is the author created accepted manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1017/stc.2019.15
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