Speaker Spotlight: Alastair Bellany by Alexandra Borkowski

Dr. Alastair Bellany will take part in the upcoming conference at UCHI “Re-Reading the Revolution”: A conference launching Léamh: Learn Early Modern Irish http://history.uconn.edu/2017/09/25/uchi-re-reading-the-revolution-a-conference-launching-leamh-learn-early-modern-irish/


Historian Alastair Bellany has devoted his academic career to studying the politics and culture of the early Stuart court. Bellany earned his B.A. from Oxford University, and his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He has been teaching at Rutgers University since 1996, and is on the executive board of Rutgers British Studies Center. As an early modernist, he focuses on popular politics and the development of media in and around the Stuart court. He is particularly interested in political intrigues and libelous literature surrounding the reign of King James VI and I.

Bellany published his first book, The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair, 1603-1660, in 2002 through Cambridge University Press. The book examines the political rise and fall of Sir Thomas Overbury, whose murder in 1613 scandalized the Stuart court. By carefully analyzing the creation and dissemination of news concerning the scandal, Bellany argues that images depicting the scandal had dangerous political significance for the court.

Furthering his research into the early Stuarts, Bellany coauthored The Murder of King James I, which was published by Yale University Press in 2015. The book examines the accusation made in a pamphlet in 1625 that the Duke of Buckingham murdered the king, and shows how this allegation influenced court politics leading up to the English Civil War. By examining the effects of the story of King James I’s murder, Bellany and co-author Thomas Cogswell investigate the political factors that weakened and eventually overthrew the Stuart dynasty.

Bellany’s expertise in court scandal, as well as the defamatory literature these scandals engendered, is also apparent in his work as co-editor of the online database “Early Stuart Libels: an Edition of Poetry from Manuscript Sources.” This impressive contribution to digital humanities features more than 350 poems spanning the reign of King James I to the beginning of the English Civil War. The collection is intended to help scholars view the political culture of the Stuart court through a unique literary lens.

Besides distinguishing himself through his books and work as editor of an online poetry collection, Bellany has been a frequent contributor to a variety of edited volumes. He is currently at work on a textbook for Oxford University Press on the history of Britain to 1715, and is also writing a history on the Stuart hanging ballad.