In this season of religious renewal, we bring you a story of religious dissent. In 1638, many of King Charles I’s Presbyterian subjects gathered at Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh to sign the National Covenant. By renewing their own covenant with the Almighty, they also pledged to resist encroachments on church government by the king, and the innovations in doctrine he sought to make for the Church of Scotland.
As we’ve discovered in previous episodes, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were a time of religious upheaval and political discord. Reformation and Civil War remade European society, especially in the British Isles, and profoundly shaped colonial American history.
Civil War and religious strife eroded the idea of the divine right of kings, leaving Charles I headless in the end. These revolutions helped to create the eighteenth-century British world that George Washington rebelled against, as well as the kind of monarch George III would become.
Today’s episode builds on recent conversations with Dr. Michelle D. Brock, Dr. Márcia Balisciano, and more as we explore the Covenanters movement in seventeenth-century Scotland with Dr. Karie Schultz. For many of the thousands of Scots Presbyterians who settled in the American colonies in the decades before the American Revolution, including a man like the Reverend John Witherspoon, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence, the National Covenant was a seminal moment in their religious history.
Dr. Schultz takes us back to the seventeenth century to help us understand the origins of this crucial contest between king and kirk.
Jim Ambuske caught up with Schultz over Zoom earlier this summer as she was finishing up her graduate studies at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland. She is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the British School in Rome and the host of the podcast, Research in Scottish History, where Schultz and her guests break down exciting new work on a range of topics, from Scots in the Caribbean to the material culture of the hit series Outlander. Do check it out.
About Our Guest:
Dr. Karie Schultz completed a PhD on "Political Thought and Protestant Intellectual Culture in the Scottish Revolution, 1637-51" at Queen's University Belfast. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the British School at Rome where she is studying the intellectual networks between Italian Jesuits and the Scottish and English priests training at their respective colleges in Rome, 1600-1745. She hosts the podcast, Research in Scottish History.
About Our Host:
Jim Ambuske, Ph.D. leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. A historian of the American Revolution, Scotland, and the British Atlantic World, Ambuske graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA Law, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project. He is currently at work on a book about emigration from Scotland in the era of the American Revolution as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.