PUBLIC LECTURE: Surveillance, Conspiracy and Plot in Elizabethan England

This lecture explores questions of surveillance during the reign of Elizabeth I (ruled 1558-1603), focusing on a series of plots that aimed to depose Elizabeth and place her rival Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne.  A series of sensational conspiracies were tracked and uncovered by Sir Francis Walsingham and his security services, apparently saving Queen Elizabeth from assassination and England from invasion. But was everything as it seemed?  This lecture demonstrates how the fear of conspiracy became a powerful factor in Elizabethan politics, justifying the government’s harsh repression of Catholicism and stimulating a propaganda campaign in defence of the regime.  We also examine some techniques of surveillance employed by the Elizabethan secret service including ciphers, secret ink, and the use of double agents.

John P.D. Cooper studied for an MA as a Thouron Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania before returning to Oxford to research his doctorate on Tudor royal propaganda. He came to York in 2005, having worked on the Tudor desk at the Dictionary of National Biography and as a teaching fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford.

His research focuses on the political, religious and cultural history of sixteenth-century England, and he is also interested in the history of early colonial America and Ireland.