Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The English border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed provides the perfect case study to analyze early modern state building in the frontiers. Berwick experienced two seismic shifts of identity, instituted by two successive monarchs: Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and James I (1603-1625). Both sought to expand state power in the borders, albeit in different ways. Elizabeth needed to secure her borders, and so built up Berwick’s military might with expensive new fortifications and an enlarged garrison of soldiers, headed by a governor who administered the civilian population as well. This arrangement resulted in continual clashes with Berwick’s traditional governing guild. Then, in 1603, Berwick’s world was turned upside-down when James VI, king of Scotland, ascended the English throne. The turbulent borders were rechristened the “Middle Shires” of his united realm. Berwick was stripped of its border garrison, and relevance, by 1604; now, it was merely a regional market center. Its townspeople regained their pre-Elizabethan autonomy, but they faced the challenge of redefining their urban identity, so tied as it had been to the town’s militarized status. While Berwick’s leaders developed creative solutions to cope with the loss of employment and crown funds resulting from the garrison’s dissolution, ultimately the town declined without the border line to give it international significance.
Across early modern Europe, states engaged in concerted efforts of consolidation and centralization of their power. These efforts proved particularly difficult in the frontiers, which were often distant from the crown and near a hostile neighboring state. We cannot understand the process of state formation from the state’s perspective alone. This work tracks the changes in governance, economy, and identity of a town that found itself directly in the orbit of an expanding state. Crown policy as it was enacted on the ground elicited local responses, both cooperative and combative, that in turn shaped how the townspeople understood their community and themselves, and the power of the state.
Van Vliet, Janine Maria, "From A “strong Town Of War” To The “very Heart Of The Country”: The English Border Town Of Berwick-Upon-Tweed, 1558-1625" (2017). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 3078.