Three Kingdom's Approach to the 17th Century

Topic: SocietyWar
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Last updated: February 12, 2019

Some historians have focused on a Three Kingdoms Approach in the 17th century.

Explain how this has contributed to our understanding of the mid 17th century crisis. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach? The Three Kingdoms approach has strengths such as a wide variety of areas that can be used as sources as well as weaknesses such as a possibility to be more focused on Scotland and Ireland. However, it seems that the approach may also not be very useful depending on your focus of study.For example, if you wish to research the overall European state during the 17th century, this method may not be useful as its focus is too narrow. It has contributed to our understanding of the 17th Century by widening our area of study thus a wider spatial perspective, giving us a wider understanding, as well as giving us a viewpoint from different religions rather than one. The Three Kingdoms approach is an approach used by empirical and revisionist historians such as Conrad Russell and Peter Gaunt.

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This approach to history focuses on the 17th century crisis from the angle of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.It attributes the causes for main events during this period, such as the British Civil War as due to events in these three kingdoms. Conrad Russell supports the Three Kingdoms Approach as he states ‘When three Kingdoms under one ruler all take to armed resistance within three years, it seems sensible to investigate the possibility that their actions may have had a common cause’. This approach has the benefit of having a wider spatial view, rather than a local one. This means that the area of study is wider, and so conclusions drawn from research using this approach will be generalisable to a wider area rather than a locality.

This can be a strength if the area of research requires a wide spatial view. Using this approach a historian could focus on the impact of a certain event , such as Charles II being proclaimed King in Scotland on how that had a ripple effect on Ireland and England. The Three Kingdoms approach allows for historians to study history from below and from above as it is not limited by social class. This can be a strength of the approach if a historian is looking at how something affects all social classes. For example it could focus on how Irish Revolt affected the ower classes as well as the upper classes and by doing so avoiding any social bias. Despite its strengths, the approach is also subject to weakness. For example, the approach could still be Anglo-centric despite it’s focus on all three kingdoms.

The relation between Ireland and England may be ignored in favour of the relationship between Scotland and Ireland. This may be an issue with all approaches that have a wide spatial view, because as they have a large area to research it’s possible that focus could be shifted to one area rather than the whole.Furthermore, it may exaggerate the problems experienced by Great Britain rather than other places, for example this approach may inadvertently focus on the problems experienced by Great Britain rather than the rest of Europe. Another possible weakness when using this approach is that it can actually be too narrow.

If a historian wished to research the effect of an event, such as the growth of the Renaissance Courts over the entire of Europe, the Three Kingdoms approach would be too narrow.A more preferable approach would the European General Crisis developed in the 1960-70’s. This approach has the benefit of a much wider spatial perspective than the Three Kingdoms approach. However, this may also have a downfall, as covered previously, that it could focus on one part of Europe more than another as there is a large area of research to cover. The Three Kingdom’s approach has contributed to our understanding of the 17th Century crisis by widening the focus of study from perhaps one country, such as England to the three Kingdoms of Great Britain.This can help us understand the effect of an event in terms of three countries, of different religions, rather than just one. This means more generalisable interpretations can be formed rather than one localised to one country. It’s approach has also helped us understand the effect an event or change had on different classes, for example the effect of the Bishops war could be looked at in terms of the nobility and the lower classes rather than a one sided view of just the effect on King Charles I and his reign.

The Three Kingdoms approach has further contributed to our understanding of the 17th Century by widening the religious view as there was more than one religion in Great Britain during the 17th Century. Again, the Bishop’s war and Laudism could be seen from the Episcopalian viewpoint favored by King Charles or from the Presbyterian viewpoint. The battle between these viewpoints can be focused on through the Three Kingdoms approach which why this approach has contributed to our understanding of the 17th Century Crisis in another way.The Three Kingdoms Approach has contributed to our understanding the 17th Century by helping historians widen their spatial viewpoint as well as adding different perspectives that otherwise may have been ignored, such as the views of other religions. It has also contributed by giving historians a view of history from below as well as above which may avoid social bias. It does however have weaknesses as it may not be a wide enough approach for some, if their focus is on the entirety of Europe perhaps.

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