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This paper examines the role of select sixteenth-century parliaments, States, Estates, and Cortes in determining the succession to the throne. How far did these assemblies shape the royal succession in hereditary regimes as opposed to elective ones? Did their actions undertaken in emergency circumstances – dynastic extinction, deposition of a tyrannical prince – lead to constitutional change and, if so, what did that involve? How was the power of parliaments conceptualized in polemical tracts and the more abstract works of political philosophy such as Bodin’s Six livres de la Republique? Focusing on the contested successions in contemporary England, Poland, France, and Portugal, this paper provides a fresh view of Europe’s political assemblies at a time of mounting religious conflict and colonial expansion. Advocating a comparative perspective, it invites a rethinking of the dominant historiographical assumption about the decline of Europe’s representative institutions by the turn of the seventeenth century.

Paulina Kewes is Professor of English Literature and Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. She has published widely on early modern literature, politics, and history, and currently holds a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship (2021-24) for ‘Contesting the Royal Succession in Reformation England, Latimer to Shakespeare’, a book contracted to OUP. She is the principal investigator on the ‘Recovering Europe’s Parliamentary Culture, 1500-1700’ project.

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but advance booking is required.