Published by Primary Source Microfilm
From the Borthwick Institute for Historical Research, University of York
Was the English Civil War sparked by the heated disputes between Catholics and Puritans, or was it caused by the autocratic style of the king and his chief ministers, Laud and Wentworth?
The papers of the York Court of High Commission, published for the first time in microform, provide the evidence necessary to analyze these and other contentions.
Created during the Reformation, the Court of High Commission was intended to enforce uniformity on the English Church and was particularly concerned with censorship. As a prerogative court summoned at the sovereign's discretion, the Court of High Commission could impose severe penalties outside the common law. Increasingly, it came to be regarded as a key example of the Church's usurpation of secular powers and as an instrument for the enforcement of Archbishop Laud's unpopular policies. Fiercely attacked in the Parliament, the Court of High Commission was finally abolished in 1641, following the impeachment and imprisonment of Laud.
Providing crucial insight into the 80 years before the Civil War, these records demonstrate the extent of religious divisions in England and document the changing nature of the court from a Protestant court imposing discipline and authority within the church, to a crypto-Catholic fundraiser. All of the surviving papers are filmed, including the Act Books for 1562-1603, 1607-1634 and 1638-1641 and the accompanying Cause Papers.
The unique historical significance of the records is heightened by the fact that the records of the Canterbury Court of High Commission, with jurisdiction in the southern provinces, were destroyed. This is the only surviving record of the Laudian regime and covert tax gathering under the guise of church discipline.