Distrust of Institutions in Early Modern Britain and America

Distrust of Institutions in Early Modern Britain and America by Brian P. Levack 2022

About the Author
Brian P. Levack is John E. Green Regents Professor Emeritus in History at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written widely on the legal, political, and religious history of early modern Europe. His books include The Civil Lawyers in England 1603-1641: A Political Study; The Formation of the British State: England, Scotland and the Union, 1603-1707; The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, which has been translated into eight languages; Witch-hunting in Scotland: Law, Politics, and Religion; and The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West. He is the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America.

About the Book
Distrust of public institutions, which reached critical proportions in Britain and the United States in the first two decades of the twenty-first century, was an important theme of public discourse in Britain and colonial America during the early modern period. Demonstrating broad chronological and thematic range, the historian Brian P. Levack explains that trust in public institutions is more tenuous and difficult to restore once it has been betrayed than trust in
one’s family, friends, and neighbors, because the vast majority of the populace do not personally know the officials who run large national institutions. Institutional distrust shaped the political, legal, economic, and religious history of England, Scotland, and the British colonies in America. It
provided a theoretical and rhetorical foundation for the two English revolutions of the seventeenth century and the American Revolution in the late eighteenth century. It also inspired reforms of criminal procedure, changes in the system of public credit and finance, and challenges to the clergy who dominated the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, and the churches in the American colonies. This study reveals striking parallels between the loss of trust in British and American
institutions in the early modern period and the present day.


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