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Empowerment and disempowerment in the Glencairn Uprising

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The Glencairn Uprising (1653–1654) was a military rebellion by Scottish Highlanders under the leadership of William, Earl of Glencairn, against the English government of Oliver Cromwell. This paper investigates the presentation of actors and groups on both sides of the Uprising — but most especially Glencairn himself — in the contemporary London press. The theoretical framework of the analysis is Critical Discourse Analysis (modelled especially on the approach of van Dijk 1991); however, a corpus-based methodology, and a partially-quantitative analysis, are employed. The documents in question — a corpus of newsbooks published in late 1653 and the first half of 1654 — are analysed by a process of assigning concordance lines extracted using a wide set of search terms to particular categories of discourse-semantic meaning. The newsbooks are shown to make use of greatly contrasting discourses in their representations of Glencairn and others, resulting in “discourses of empowerment and disempowerment” (the latter being associated secondarily with a “discourse of disunity”). By employing these discourses, the newsbook journalists discredit Glencairn and his associates, whilst crediting the English and their associates.
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Keywords: Cromwell; Glencairn; corpus linguistics; critical discourse analysis; journalism; newsbooks; seventeenth century

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 30, 2009

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