Mapping Out Jacobean Britain: John Speed’s ‘The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain’

Interesting how the theatre becomes a metaphor for the political domain. Superb images here!

Leeds University Libraries Blog

In a two part post Joseph Massey, Team Assistant, explores how the concept of ‘Great Britain’ hugely intrigued Jacobean cartographers, historians, poets and playwrights.

When James VI, King of Scots, ascended to the English throne as James I, his succession resulted in the Union of the Crowns as England and Scotland now shared a monarch. However, they remained independent kingdoms because the English and Scottish parliaments refused to legislate a formal union. Despite this on 20 October 1604, James declared himself ‘King of Great Britain’—though in reality England and Scotland remained separate countries until 1707.

black and white drawing of James VI & I of England and Scotland standing
James VI & I as shown on the map of Scotland in Speed’s ‘The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain’ (1611-1612). Whitaker Collection 9 Fol., Image credit Leeds University Library.

Many people asked what was Great Britain? What did it mean to be British? Had Great Britain already existed in the distant…

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By penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

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