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Lincoln Unlocked: Refugees in Early Modern Europe

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Dr Tom Pert

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As a former Lincoln College student (DPhil in History, 2015-19), I was very grateful for the opportunity to return to the College Library to undertake research. I am a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the University of Warwick researching the experience of refugees in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the conflict which saw the greatest number of displaced persons in Europe prior to the Second World War. One aspect of the project is an exploration of how refugees were treated in printed media in a period in which the term ‘refugee’ had not yet entered the popular lexicon. As part of my research into this area of the project, I returned to Lincoln to examine the large collection of seventeenth-century news print in the Senior Library - including the Civil War era pamphlets left to the College by Thomas Marshall, the Rector of Lincoln College between 1672 and 1685.

The collection of pamphlets in the Senior Library contains a number of fascinating items relevant to my area of research. One, titled A Discourse Upon the Interest of England: Considered in the Case of the Deteinure of the Prince Elector Palatine his Dignities and Dominions, is a 1641 tract outlining the plight of Charles Louis, the exiled nephew of King Charles I of England (right). The young prince was the eldest surviving son of Charles’s sister, Elizabeth, and his father’s title and ancestral lands within the Holy Roman Empire had been confiscated and transferred to the Catholic Duke of Bavaria in the opening years of the Thirty Years’ War. The subject of the obligation of James VI & I and then Charles I to assist their close kin in recovering the Palatinate was one of the defining features of foreign policy under the first two Stuart monarchs. Many MPs were especially eager for England to intervene in what they regarded as a struggle between the forces of Catholicism and Protestantism. This is clearly shown by another pamphlet: Two Speeches by Sir Benjamin Rudyard concerning the Palatinate (far right).

Another very interesting example from the collection is a pamphlet from April 1642 which proposes a scheme of compensation for Protestants who had fled Ireland following the Catholic rebellion which broke out in October 1641. As my research is looking into how an early modern refugee’s experience could be affected by considerations such as religion and wealth, this is a fascinating document. In addition to suggesting that any willing soldier employed to defeat the rebels could receive an acre of land in Leinster in lieu of every 20 shillings of pay owed to them, the pamphlet provides a list of proposed measures for how to assist the Irish Protestant refugees. However, it is clear that the ‘distressed Protestants’ the author was primarily concerned with were the ones who had lost lands, possessions or property worth £1,000 and who could pay a large fee as part of the scheme to divide up the rebel-held lands.

I want to thank Dr Sarah Cusk and all of the team at the Lincoln Library for their help during this very productive research trip, and I would highly recommend the Marshall Collection to any scholar with an interest in the print and news culture of early modern Britain. To find out more about my own project follow this link.

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