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Machiavellian discourse, English politics, Scottish politics


The influence of Machiavelli on English and Scottish political discourse can be detected not just on politicians and military men, but also among clerics and the well educated elite– even when they do not cite him directly. In England and Scotland, as in mainland European countries, Machiavellian discourse placed war at the center of discussion. Some justified their bellicosity in the secularized language of Roman historians and Italian humanists and thought that since war was the main theme of history and could be regarded as an inevitable phenomenon, England might as well profit by it. This necessarily brought England into conflict with the Spanish in the Low Countries, on the high seas and in the Indies. The discourse of aristocratic swordsmen also reflected the influence of Tacitus, but in order to recruit followers for their military adventures, they looked to public places such as the London theaters, which produced plays about the military heroes of classical antiquity as well as relying on conscription from the county trained bands. While aristocratic swordsmen saw foreign wars as an opportunity to win martial fame and fortune, popular discourse had not yet been secularized to the same degree, and divines and preachers were called upon to help provide justifications for war in religious terms that the commonalty could better understand.