This article traces the main methodological and substantial similarities between Reinhart Koselleck's notion of Begriffsgeschichte and J. G. A. Pocock's approach to the history of political thought. Both approaches are responses to the shift in the unit of analysis in the study of human historical consciousness. Rather than focusing on ideas, Koselleck and Pocock concentrate on how language articulated heightened awareness of historical change. Concepts and paradigms reflect in varying manners the intensity of historical sedimentation. The more sedimentation, less space there is for innovation, and political action tends to be conservative. Conversely, unstable concepts or obsolete paradigms, reflect historical change and space for linguistic innovation.
A Methodological Inquiry into Reception in the History of Ideas
This article addresses the methodological issues involved in the study of interlingual translation as an avenue of reception in the history of ideas. In particular, it assesses the possible uses of linguistic contextualism and conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte) in this endeavour. It argues that both of these approaches have been, or are capable of being, far more sensitive towards the phenomenon of reception and, indeed, this is an area where cross-fertilization between them (often commended in general but rarely if ever in specific terms) is a practical possibility. Perspectives from Rezeptionsgeschichte may provide useful tools for building bridges between them. A few case studies in translation history are then critically examined, and on the basis of the foregoing methodological reflections propositions are made for further refining the approach taken in those case studies.
The Abridgement of the British Problem in Perkin Warbeck (1634)
The new British historiography of the seventeenth century has identified a crisis of multiple monarchy in the 1640s that precipitated what was hitherto known as the ‘English Revolution’ or ‘English Civil War’ and is now termed the ‘British Problem’. This historiographical shift has not yet been matched by a similar move in literary studies, yet it could be argued that documents of culture can offer much in the way of highlighting the tensions within the emerging British polity. In particular, the English history play provides a useful starting-point in an attempt to map out the literary representation of British identity formation in the early modern period. It also subverts the short-term historical interpretations of the British Problem that confine it to the middle of the seventeenth century. My own feeling is that the origins of the problem go back further, and this is reflected in my readings of earlier material. What began as a way of explaining the crisis of sovereignty of the 1640s can be applied to the Renaissance as a whole. J. G. A. Pocock, one of the first historians to call for a British perspective, has recently argued for an ‘Age of the Three Kingdoms’ that would comprise the entire early modern period. This could be used to argue for long-term causes of the English Civil War – a term that Pocock wishes to retain – while opening up those causes geographically and temporally. I want to suggest that the new British historiography, combined with the recent turn towards the matter of Britain in Shakespeare studies, can be employed to good effect in a reading of John Ford’s Perkin Warbeck (1634), the story of the pretender who threatened to usurp, with the help of France, Scotland, Ireland and Cornwall, the throne of Henry VII, King of England and Wales.