Studia Historica Septentrionalia 79
Esko Nevalainen,
Providential Instruments for Reformation and Liberty. The Collective Identity of the Scottish Covenanting Elite, 1637–1647

Pohjois-Suomen Historiallinen Yhdistys, Rovaniemi 2018, 352 s, mv-kuvitus.

This study concentrates on the collective identity of the Scottish Covenanting elite in a time of crisis, from 1637 to 1647. The historical study of images is used to reconstruct collective identity by studying the key concepts and images of other groups within the worldview of a specific group. One possible methodological approach to studying collective identity has been presented as examining the actions of a group from a holistic perspective. The focus in this study is on three dimensions of identity: the national, religious and international.

The commitment to the National Covenant is defined as a Covenanting schema here, in which seminal concepts are interrelated, forming a lasting set of images. This Covenanting schema included a tripartite bond between God, the Scottish Covenanting people, and their king, but the idea of liberty was also clearly defined. As King Charles I rejected the Covenant, inconsistencies appeared between the ideals and actions of the Covenanters. This paradox of loyalties helps us understand the difficult position of the Covenanters during the British Civil Wars. They were committed to their ideal of a covenanted king and a limited monarchy. The Scottish parliament and law, combined with moral values, were emphasized in their arguments.

The Covenanting elite identified themselves with the Presbyterian Church and the renewal and conclusion of the Reformation, which was related to the defence of freedom in a Christian and political sense. However, the demarcation line between religious and political discourses is not clear. Although religion and politics were differentiated as terms, they were frequently interrelated. Numerous references to the concepts of liberty and providence, for example in references to a chosen nation, combined the religious and political discourses together. The threat to security, connected to this anti-Catholic Reformation scheme, drove the Covenanters to aspire to a British project, an unrealized ideal, which was significant to English political discourse and developments. It is clear that the Covenanting identity had British features. The Covenanting elite, during disputes with their king and the English Independents, needed to enforce their principal ideas, and this moulded their self-image. The Covenanting identity also included pan-Protestant themes which were at times connected to an apocalyptic mindset.