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Series One: The Papers of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, 1593-1641, from Sheffield Archives

The papers of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, from the archives of Sheffield City Libraries consist of some 2800 holograph letters, mainly addressed to Strafford himself, and a number of letter books in which copies were kept of his own correspondence, along with 16 volumes of manuscript material.

For all scholars and researchers studying the origins of the English Civil War, the Crisis between Crown and Parliament in early Stuart Britain, and the nature of Government and Society in the seventeenth century, this collection provides an ideal starting point.

"The Strafford Papers contain a wealth of material, much of which has never been available in print. There are even some items in the correspondence between the two famous political allies, Wentworth and Laud, which have never been published. The contents of the collection add greatly to our understanding of government and society in the seventeenth century, particularly political affairs in the 1630s. It will be a great asset to scholars for the collection to be more widely available."

Professor Gerald E. Aylmer
former Master of St Peter’s College, Oxford and author of The King’s Servants: The Civil Service of Charles I, 1625-1642.

"The papers of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, form one of the greatest collections of private papers for the study of the pre-Civil War period in Britain. A noted ‘country’ parliamentarian in the 1620s, subsequently a Privy Councillor and President of the Council of the North, a controversial and combative Lord Deputy of Ireland in the 1630s and a close ally of Archbishop Laud and promoter of his ecclesiastical policies - Wentworth’s career encapsulates many of the paradoxes and points of tension in early Stuart politics. As Charles I’s chief minister in the latter years of the Personal Rule, Wentworth is a figure of vital importance in the period and one whose political significance is uniquely matched by a remarkably rich collection of personal correspondence. The wider availability of the Strafford Papers is bound to renew interest in a man whose career is crucial to the understanding of the early Stuart monarchy, its choices and dilemmas."

Dr Julia Merritt, Editor of The Political World of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, 1621-1641 (Cambridge, 1996).

"For those interested in unravelling the mysteries of early Stuart Britain, this is the ideal place to start. No scholar can hope to make sense of why Charles I’s three kingdoms slide into Civil war without a thorough understanding of the Wentworth Papers. Any library collection of British History must be regarded as incomplete without this set [of microfilms]."

Professor Thomas Cogswell
Department of History, University of Kentucky

An impressive hoard of Royal letters from Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria, immaculately preserved letterbooks of correspondence with Charles I, Cottington, Weston, Archbishop Laud and the Royal Secretaries Sir John Coke and Sir Francis Windebank, 45 Guard-books of correspondence, and significant papers on Strafford’s trial and execution in 1641, provide a wealth of evidence on the tumultuous confrontation between King and Parliament leading up to the English Civil War. Strafford’s role as President of the Council of the North, Privy Councillor, Lord Deputy and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; Scottish and Irish affairs; Puritanism; Arminianism, Archbishop Laud and the policy of "Thorough"; financial expedients and the years of "Personal Rule", 1629-1640, are all well documented. Early papers in the collection allow a comparison between Wentworth’s role at the forefront of the parliamentary ‘opposition’, 1625-1628, and his service after 1628 as chief adviser to Charles I.

Vigorous opponent of James I’s assertion that Parliament’s privileges were not ‘the ancient and undoubted right’ of the House, imprisoned for non-payment of the forced loan in 1627, and defender of the liberties of the subject, Thomas Wentworth was until 1628 at the forefront of the parliamentary ‘opposition’. Charles I effectively had him excluded from the parliament of 1626 by having him "pricked" for sheriff, along with the King’s most troublesome critics Seymour, Phelips and Coke.

But in 1628 Wentworth became a servant of the King. Appointed as President of the Council of the North he applied the law in the strictest fashion. In 1629 he became a Privy Councillor and three years later he was made Lord Deputy of Ireland. Recalled to England in 1639 as head of the commission to deal with the Scottish problem he had become chief advisor to the King. He was created Earl of Strafford, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Lieutenant General of the Army. Then in the final climax between King and Parliament leading directly to the outbreak of the English Civil War, he was executed at the Tower of London, following an elaborate show trial in 1641.

Such a wealth of vital documentary evidence, most of which has never been published in any form before, will be a great asset for all those embarking on new research into this exciting period of British History.

This collection allows one to study Strafford’s career in detail, to gain an insight into his own innermost thoughts and feelings, to examine letters and advice from Sir Thomas Wentworth to his son William, to scrutinise correspondence with friends and officials, and to offer up a fresh appraisal of this Crown Servant.

Eleven bound letter books cover the following periods:

General Correspondence, 1617-1625; 1633-1640

Strafford’s letters to and from officials leading personalities in Ireland, prior to the Deputy’s arrival in Dublin, January to December, 1632

Copies of Royal letters under the signet, warrants and other papers, 1632-1638

Strafford’s letters to and from Charles I, Cottington and Weston, 1633-1640

Strafford’s letters to and from Coke and Windebank, 1633-1640

Strafford’s letters to and from Archbishop Laud, 1633-1639

Strafford’s letters to and from the Spanish Resident, Signor Nicolades, John Taylor, Captain Plumleigh (all relating to Spanish trade, shipping and piracy), 1633-1636

Original letters contained both in the 45 Guard-books and in several other separate groupings comprise: Letters from Strafford to his family, Sir Edward Stanhope, Sir George Radcliffe, his steward and men of affairs (225 letters); letters to Strafford, 1613-1639 in chronological sequence (over 2,000 letters) of which about 400 relate to the period before he went to Ireland; letters to Strafford from Lord Clifford, Christopher Wandesford, his stewards; letters concerning the rights of Wentworth’s Savile nephew and papers relating to Roundhay; letters relating to Irish ecclesiastical affairs, including Youghall College and Trinity College, Dublin; the Royal letters: 39 letters from Charles I and 6 from Henrietta Maria, 1633-1641; as well as Notes and Letters relating to Strafford’s defence and death (including his last letters to his son and daughter).

His Official Papers include:

Copies of commissions and instruction to Wentworth and previous Crown Servants, as Lord President of the Council of the North and as Lord Deputy of Ireland, 1608-1639

Papers relating to Irish legal cases; the Mint; compositions made on the commission of defective titles; and a survey of the Government of Ireland, 1631

Petitions, 1628-1640

Directions for establishing a plantation and notes for improvements in the Bishoprics of Ulster

His papers also furnish significant information and detail on: Parliamentary privileges; Forced loans and Ship Money disputes; Foreign policy and the peace treaties with France (1629) and Spain (1630); Trade, Commerce and Flax manufacture; the Short and Long Parliaments of 1640; the Armed Forces, the administration and the policy of Thorough.

The microform edition of the Papers of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, 1593-1641 is a long awaited and indispensable resource for scholars, researchers and students of seventeenth century Stuart England and Ireland in the Early Modern period. These papers are essential for an understanding of the English Civil War, politics in the Reign of Charles I, the years of personal rule, religious affairs, Irish affairs, and the troubles in Scotland, and relations between Crown and Parliament in the tumultuous decades before 1640.


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