People value loyalty. We prize it in our dogs. We loyally carry loyalty cards to claim discounts at our favourite stores and coffee shops. We follow sports teams, even when they lose. Loyalty is also deeply political. It is signified in oaths of office, in pledges of allegiance, and in the machinations of party politics. Loyalty, like justice, is taken to be an unalloyed good. As Don Corleone taught us: ‘Blood makes you related, loyalty makes you family’.
It is not surprising that loyalty has a deep and complex history in Anglophone political thought. The seventeenth century in Britain was a period in which political loyalties were shaped, tested, and sometimes fractured.
is Professor of History at the University of Roehampton. He was written widely on the politics of early modern Britain, and on topics such as oaths and covenants, the Revolution of 1688, and the radical history of Britain. In a range of essays, he has explored topics in political thought from the Renaissance to Thomas Paine. His new book Loyalty, Memory and Public Opinion in England, 1658-1727
(Manchester University Press, 2019), examines ‘loyal addresses’ as mechanisms for the expression of public opinion, and as links between the local and national contexts of politics.
Charles Prior is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull (UK), who has written on the politics of religion in early modern Britain, and whose work has recently expanded to the intersection of colonial, indigenous, and imperial politics in early America. He co-leads the Treatied Spaces Research Cluster.