Notable Occurences and more on agents

The new Carnivalesque is up at Mercurius Politicus!  Surprisingly, my previous post is actually mentioned!  Whooo!  My thanks to Politicus for hosting the Carnivalesque and for the handful of people who read this blog.

Also mentioned in the Carnivalesque is this article over at Got Medieval.  Evidently, Johannes Gutenberg found a printing press after he tripped over a stone tablet.  A panel of experts, indeed.

I have continued my look into agenting (I don’t know if that’s a real word; if it isn’t, I hereby call dibs).  I’ve been skimming through Knowler’s 18th-century volumes of Strafford’s correspondence for clues as to his relationship with William Raylton, clerk of the council chamber and later the clerk of the privy seal.  As J. F. Merritt points out in her chapter in her edited book The Political World of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, 1621-1641, Raylton was a very key component in Strafford’s communication with London.  In fact, he seems to have performed very similar functions to Mabbott with some his patrons.  I still have to look up more secondary literature on Strafford, but I think this is definitely something useful.

I have been trying to formulate a slightly more vertical version of political history.  What I am doing still focuses on the center, Westminster and Whitehall, and I am still interested in what the grands were up to, but I also think it is necessary to look at some of the lesser known functionaries in these places.  Men like Mabbott and Raylton were there, and provided important unofficial functions, but very little record of these activities remain.  All we have are snippets, usually in other people’s correspondence.  However, we need to imagine a political world in which the machinery had its own minds and motives.  These men were official clerks, but also were in the pocket of others.  When grands conducted business in front of these people, they had to keep that in mind.  Some of them, like Mabbott, seem to have had more mercenary tendencies, while others may have been loyal to one patron.  Nonetheless, it does add another texture to the goings on in Westminster.  We need to remember that these scribes were not just cogs in the government machine, but were powerful players in their own right, and they had a great deal of information pass under or around them every day.  They were likely better informed than many of the more famous players.  Peter Beal, in In Praise of Scribes, remarks that scribes were singled out as unnaturally powerful for their humble social status.  Perhaps we should take the contemporary complaint a bit more seriously.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today.  See you all next time!

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