1624 Parliamentary Diaries
The 1624 Parliament remains one of the most puzzling and controversial of all the early Stuart Parliaments. The most harmonious of all the early Stuart assemblies, it fits rather awkwardly into the accepted scholarly framework, which views the period between 1604 and 1629 as one of steady and marked deterioration in relations between the king and the Commons. Its burst of legislative activity has helped to inspire important recent research, moving political history into new realms, exploring the connections between Parliament and the public in Stuart England, for example, on the relationship between parliamentary politics and petitioners and the publication and circulation of news.
Moving forward our understanding of this Parliament, however, has been hampered by the lack of a good edition of its proceedings. For all of the other Parliaments of the early seventeenth century, the scattered evidence has been brought together and edited by the Yale Center for Parliamentary History, a project which dates back to the 1920s and one of the great historians of the pre-Revolution English Parliament, Wallace Notestein. The proceedings of the 1624 Parliament, uniquely, remained unpublished when the Yale Center was closed in 2007, leaving a gaping hole in the material readily available and accessible for this critical year in the history of Parliament.
The History of Parliament Trust agreed to become the repository of the 1624 material collected by the Yale Center, and a £97,000 grant from the Leverhulme Trust and additional funding from the Friends of the Yale Center for Parliamentary History and the Mercers’ Company of the City of London have enabled the History to take on the project. It is being managed by Philip Baker, who works closely with Andrew Thrush and the team which has recently published The House of Commons, 1604-29, and is now working on the House of Lords over the same period. The 1624 proceedings will be published online as well as in print, and, with the biographies we have already published and other online resources, will begin to offer the prospect of a connected set of resources which will enable scholars to dig more deeply and more easily than ever before into the vexed politics of the early Stuarts.
The project began in January 2012, using the methods and principles established by the Yale Center, and is a major undertaking. For the proceedings within the House of Commons alone, there are some seventeen diary and journal accounts, some written by well-known figures such as John Pym, while the authorship of two of them remains uncertain. The accounts vary widely in both their physical appearance and in the level of information they bestow. Some are fair hand copies providing detailed accounts of members’ speeches and the legislative process, while others take the form of rough scribbled notes, perhaps written on the diarist’s lap in the Common’s chamber itself. One is in law French, two use an early form of shorthand and, uniquely to this Parliament, three different versions of the Commons Journal survive for periods of its sitting. The edition will include complete transcripts of all of this material.
On 12 February 2015, on the 391st anniversary of its opening, the publication of Proceedings in Parliament 1624: The House of Commons began on the internet, hosted by British History Online. The first in a progressive release of the Commons’ proceedings made available, for the first time, those covering the opening month of the Parliament, some eleven days of business consisting of over 90,000 words of text. When completed, the release of the full eighty-four days of Commons’ proceedings covered by the various diaries and journals of the 1624 Parliament will give scholars free online access to over 770,000 words detailing the work of the so-called ‘Happy Parliament’.