G.R. Elton

G.R. Elton is a professor of history at Cambridge and a fellow of Clare College. His most recent book is Reform and Reformation: England 1509-1558. He is working on a study of the Parliaments of the reign of Elizabeth 1.

Members’ Memorial

G.R. Elton, 20 May 1982

Has there ever been a theme as much studied by English historians as the history of Parliament? At one time, indeed, it seemed almost to stand in for the history of the country itself: history equalled politics, and politics equalled Parliament. Stubbs structured the 14th and 15th centuries around what were, after all, intermittent and occasional meetings of this supposedly representative body; the Tudor century received blame for not having a true parliament, one worthy of the name, since the monarchs were supposedly allowed to do as they pleased with it; the origins, history and consequences of the Great Rebellion were seen to revolve around Parliament; and after 1660 everything became Parliament and parties, leading on to the zenith of their history in the 19th century. If this was whig history it affected tories in quite the same way. The layman may well wonder why work should still be done on the history of Parliament, that olive whose oil has surely long since been pressed from its desiccated flesh.

Ladurie’s Talents

G.R. Elton, 1 October 1981

This is the second collection of essays by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie to appear in English. The first was called The Territory of the Historian and up to a point justified its title by describing a landscape of historical investigation – rural France peopled by a peasantry engaged in earning a living and undergoing birth, disease and death, the whole benignly directed by techniques of quantification. The present title might lead one to expect essays more specifically on the ways in which historians think and operate, but in fact they all deal with historical, not with methodological topics. If we are to understand the mind and method of this historian, we need to extract them from what he has produced, without direct guidance from himself. Such an investigation has its attractions, if only because Le Roy Ladurie writes with great verve and frequent flashes (of various kinds); his translators serve him splendidly, except that they seem never to have heard of Albertus Magnus, St Thomas Aquinas’s teacher, who appears rather oddly as ‘the “great Albert” ’ and ‘Albert le Grand’. Moreover, such an investigation seems called for. The blurb quotes Professor Lawrence Stone’s judgment on the author: ‘There cannot be much doubt that in the last twenty years Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie has been one of the most – if not the most – original, versatile and imaginative historians in the world.’ Thus all of us need to learn from this master how history should be written and disseminated.

Viscount Lisle at Calais

G.R. Elton, 16 July 1981

In the reign of Henry VIII, when a man was arrested for treason (an arrest which, among the eminent, tended to be equal to a conviction, with the usual consequences), his papers were confiscated and disappeared into the royal archives in the Tower. Considering the number of people who suffered this fate, the amount of surviving material is distressingly small. What happened to Cardinal Wolsey’s unquestionably massive, and unquestionably confiscated, correspondence, a remnant of which was acquired by Sir Robert Cotton? Where are the papers of Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More? Perhaps the former kept none; the latter, practising his famous discretion, very likely destroyed his in the months during which, still free, he could confidently look forward to his arrest. Of course, there are scattered items from his and other people’s correspondence which have accidentally survived here and there, but – apart from Thomas, Lord Darcy’s small collection – only two private archives now exist among the Henrician state papers at the Public Record Office: those of Henry VIII’s Lord Privy Seal and Viceregent, Thomas Cromwell, and those of his lord deputy at Calais, Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle.

Elton at seventy

Patrick Collinson, 11 June 1992

Sir Geoffrey Elton’s latest reflections on the state and status of his subject illustrate the Coleridgean maxim that a man is more likely to be right in what he affirms than in what he...

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Conrad Russell, 7 November 1985

This could be called a review of the three Regiuses. G.R. Elton is at present Regius Professor at Cambridge. Owen Chadwick, to whom tribute is paid in a festschrift, is his predecessor in the...

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Floreat Eltona

David Starkey, 19 January 1984

1983 was Professor Elton’s ‘grand climacteric’. For though the crucial age in astrology is 63 and he is only 61, there can be no doubt when a few short months saw the...

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