Predestination and Political Conflict in Laud’s London
This article examines the policy pursued by William Laud during his tenure as bishop of London, focusing specifically on the way in which he enforced the various royal edicts against discussion of predestination. It is argued that Laud enforced Charles I's decrees in an unbalanced manner, attacking Calvinists while apparently leaving their anti-Calvinist opponents untouched. It is likewise argued, however, that this strategy was accomplished not through a policy of overt judicial persecution, but through a more subtle regime of quiet threat and harassment. Such a policy was necessary because, at least in London, the question of predestination had by 1629 become a serious and explosive issue, one that was inextricably linked in the minds of many observers to more explicitly ‘secular’ matters of government and policy. In the process of examining Laud's strategy, the article seeks to untangle the question of why both the Caroline authorities and their enemies saw the seemingly scholastic question of predestination as a matter of such crucial political significance. Ultimately, the article helps to revise our understanding of the political atmosphere that prevailed in England at the outset of the personal rule, while likewise contributing to a deeper understanding of the political breakdown that led to civil war and revolution in the 1640s.