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Durham University

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Fergal Leonard

Faction, Patronage, and Political Networks in the West March, 1569 – 1603 in the Department of History

Contact Fergal Leonard (email at

Project overview

My project explores how regional political culture developed over the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and how political networks within regions interacted with, and were integrated into, the national-level political networks centred on the queen, her court, and the privy council. It uses the marcher community of Cumberland and Westmoreland as a case study for how one region, geographically and politically isolated but with national significance as a key frontier area, was integrated into the wider political community of Elizabethan England.

I am grateful to the Wolfson Foundation, whose funding has made my research possible.

Research interests

I am interested in political engagement across the social spectrum, especially that which showed awareness of the dynamics of court politics. As part of this, I explore popular participation in regional governance, and cooperation with the administrative and judicial apparatus of the early modern state. My own focus is on a region with a strong character of a semi-militarised frontier zone, and I am interested in the study of frontiers and border regions throughout Europe and the wider world.

Seminars and conferences

  • "The insolencies of the Grahams": authority and order on the Anglo-Scottish frontier, 1593 – 1603. (Newcastle Postgraduate Forum conference on the theme of ‘conflict’, Newcastle University, May 2019).
  • "Such ordinary company of evil men": the experience of travel, ambition, and opportunity, 1590 – 1603. (Medieval and Early Modern Student Association conference, ‘Travel, Movement and Exploration in the Early Modern World’, Durham University, July 2019).
  • "A good subject for the current time": the political and confessional loyalties of Henry Leigh. (Centres for Anglican and Catholic Studies conference, ‘From Rebellion to Reconciliation’, Durham University, September 2019).
  • "Addicted to a Dacre": Leonard Dacre, the Rising of the North, and the politics of rebellion. (Durham-Münster joint workshop, WWU Münster, November 2019).
  • "The poor people cry and call for you and your blood to rule them": The Dacre tenantry and the politics of protest, resistance, and rebellion. (MEMSA seminar, February 2020).
  • In Hunt of Strange Gods: Henry Leigh and the Pursuit of Preferment in the English and Scottish Courts, 1585 – 1603. (Paper overview presented online after the cancellation of Durham Early Modern Conference 2020; full paper will be delivered at DEMC 2021).

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