Kingsley on Froude’s History of England

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A scan of the entire January 1864 number of Macmillan’s Magazine, with Kingsley’s famous review of Froude’s History of England, Vols. vii. – viii. (211-224) is available from archive.org. The slander of Newman that lead to the writing of the Apologia is on page 217.

It is remarkably fitting that Kingsley’s controversy with Newman began with his review of a History of Tudor England. Oddly enough, the history in question was by J. A. Froude, the violently anti-Catholic younger brother of Newman’s friend Richard Hurrell Froude. Kingsley begins his review with fulsome praise for the newly awakened historical consciousness of his generation. He even praises the Oxford Movement for contributing to knowledge of history. (212) But the effect of the praise is short lived as the rest of the review is concerned with attacking the view of British history which the Oxford Movement – and especially converts from it to “Romanism” – had developed. He analyzes the reign of Queen Elisabeth, which he reads as the story of the shaking off of the evil influence of Catholicism. He closes with an appeal to remember that Elisabeth’s cause was “the cause of freedom and of truth, which has led these realms to glory,” and a warning against the anti-English attitude of “those who have lately joined, or are inclined to join, the Church of Rome,” and are teaching the young to prefer “the cause of tyranny and of lies,” which Elisabeth opposed. “After all,” he closes, “Victrix Causa Diis placuit. ” It was a thought dear to his heart: the successful cause is right! (224)

Henry VII and the End of the Middle Ages

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In England the disintegration of the medieval order coincided with the rise of the house of Tudor. In fact, already Henry VII (1457 – 1509), the founder of the Tudor dynasty, made certain key decisions which were to erode the medieval way of life and the world view of Christendom. When he came to power in 1485 England was weakened both by the hundred years war with France (1337 – 1453) and the Wars of the Roses (1455 – 1485), a civil war which decimated the English nobility. The effects of these two wars gave Henry the opportunity to begin the remolding of England along new lines. By the peace of Etaples (1492) Henry VII gave up English claims to French territories , a key step in the development of English nationalism. Removed from the continent the English could less and less conceive of themselves as part of the higher unity of “Christendom.”

The weakening of the English nobility through the Wars of the Roses enabled Henry to strengthen the monarchy, thus ending the hierarchy of subsidiary feudal authorities, and leading English subjects to see themselves primarily as members of the English nation. At the same time it led to the an increase in the power of the mercantile class, with which Henry allied himself. The Intercursus Magnus (given its effects, the Flemish name Malus Intercursus seems more apposite) led to an explosion of the wool trade that was to be a driving force behind the fundamental changes represented by the agricultural and industrial revolutions. The wool trade led to enclosure which destroyed the medieval economy (which Phillip Blond calls the “Catholic Economy”). It led to the primacy of the kind of dehumanized contractual/mechanical economic relations that are typical of capitalism.