08 January 2010

The First Blast Of The Trumpet Against The Monstrous Regiment Of Women

"I affirm that to promote a woman to bear rule or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature, contumely to God, and a thing most contrary to his revealed and approved ordinance..."
The First Blast Of The Trumpet Against The Monstrous Regiment Of Women is a treatise by the Protestant John Knox which, quite simply, warns of the inherent dangers of allowing women to take positions of authority. It is, undoubtedly, Knox's most famous work, though its message is outdated and seems almost naïve. Indeed, the text is now more valued as an example of post-medieval misogyny rather than a definitive warning of the evils of feminine power.

The treatise itself is wordy, obsessive about minutiae and filled with an array of scriptural, historical and religious quotes, all of which are used to espouse Knox's main point: 'I am assured that God has revealed to some in this our age, that it is more than a monster in nature that a woman shall reign and have empire above man'. The abundance of alternate sources he quotes does little aside from show the long and drawn out history of opposition to the rule of women. Ultimately, the whole work comes across as the fervent ravings of a madman, though in truth Knox was merely recording the general attitude of the time.

The treatise itself begins with a preface, in which Knox outlines the religious background to his viewpoint. It moves on, albeit at a snail's pace, to sound the first blast, aimed (according to Knox's title) at 'women degenerate'. The empire of women is, he tells us, degenerate to nature, contrary to the revealed will of God. What's more, it is subversive of good order, equity and justice. Expecting trouble, Knox then answers some common objections bandied by less-clear thinkers. This section is almost as long as the first sections combined, and is followed by a conclusion. The contents of his conclusion will come as no surprise, and it ends, quite simply, with 'Praise God, ye that fear him.' It appears there can be, at least in Knox's mind, no possible argument against the divine truth of his words.

Knox's work was published in Geneva in 1558, and was initially an anonymous publication. The 'first blast' was to be followed by two more works, and Knox intended to reveal his identity on the publication of the triumphant third blast. His two sequels remained unwritten, however, although a short summary of his intended subject matter was later published.

The full text is available at http://www.swrb.ab.ca/newslett/actualNLs/firblast.htm

The First Blast Of The Trumpet Against The Monstrous Regiment Of Women is, of course, the inspiration for Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Monstrous Regiment. (Well, the inspiration for the title, at least, although you can see the thematic links...)

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