The Politics of Counsel

A research project
based at the University of St Andrews


The Politics of Counsel project brings together a wide range of scholars interested in the theory and practice of political advice across several countries and centuries.  It allows those studying counsel to place their own research in comparative contexts through both formal conferences and informal contacts.

Throughout history, those exercising power have rarely wielded it without any assistance.  Advice has come from power brokers such as the nobility, experts such as lawyers, and those who speak with moral authority, like the clergy.  Rulers have also been counselled by friends, confessors, consorts, and physicians.  Courts and entourages have provided arenas for the provision of advice, from the households of medieval kings, to those competing for twentieth-century dictators’ favour, to the special advisors of contemporary prime ministers and presidents.  These types of fluid and informal counsel often have to compete with formal institutionalised councils – parliaments, privy councils, and cabinets.  The politics of counsel also encompass advice-giving at a local or provincial level.

Investigating conciliar politics thus provides a route into understanding the dynamics of different power relationships and structures across time and space.

For more about becoming a member of the Project, contact Dr Jacqueline Rose:

 All images reproduced by kind permission of Special Collections, University of St Andrews.

We are grateful to The British Academy, the Browning Fund, and the University of St Andrews for their support of this project.

Banner image: The prince and their counsellors, from Thomas North’s 1557 translation of Antonio de Guevara’s Relox de principes: The Diall of Princes
Top right: James III, from John Johnston’s Inscriptiones historicae regum Scotorum (1602)
Centre left: A discourse upon the means of well governing (1602; a translation of Gentillet’s attack on Machiavelli’s Prince)