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English Revolution in United Kingdom

British Political and Social Thought: The Constitutional Crisis and the English Revolution

Introduction to English Revolution

After Elizabeth I died in 1603, James I became the first of the Stuarts to ascend the English throne. The Stuarts had ruled Scotland since 1371. James and his successor, Charles I, rejected the constitutional middle ground that the Tudors had established and governed as absolute monarchs, refusing to share authority with Parliament. Their authority came directly from God, they claimed, and they ruled alone by divine right. In addition to opposing the sharing of power, James and Charles repudiated the Tudor theological compromise. They sought to return England to the Catholic fold, and they actively persecuted radical English Protestants, called Puritans. Some of the Puritans fled to settle the New England colonies in America. Those Puritans who remained became central actors in the great constitutional crisis of the 17th century known as the English Revolution.

Between 1640 and 1649 Parliament raised an army, led by military administrator Oliver Cromwell, that fought to overthrow Charles I and his royalist followers. Charles was captured, arrested under charge of treason, and executed in 1649. Cromwell abolished the monarchy and the House of Lords, and became the first commoner to rule a great European power. England was declared a commonwealth, in which government was to function according to the common consent of the people. Cromwell’s government failed, however, and the Stuart monarchy was restored in 1660, when Charles II ascended the throne. Both he and his successor, James II, reasserted the divine right principle of ruling without Parliament and sympathized with the Catholic cause. In 1688 opponents of James II forced him to abdicate the throne and replaced him with William III and his wife, Mary II, who were crowned as joint rulers in 1689. This Glorious Revolution of 1688, as it came to be called, occurred without bloodshed and restored the division of power between Parliament and the monarchy.

The tumultuous half-century of crisis that preceded the Glorious Revolution inspired a reconsideration of government and produced many enduring strands of British political and social thought. In deriving their theories regarding government and society, thinkers of the time explored a rich variety of ideas. They examined British and classical history for inspiration, proposed truths about human morality, and questioned whether society actually benefited from stern leadership.” (1)


Notes and References

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    • Article Name: English Revolution
    • Author: Danny W.
    • Description: British Political and Social Thought: The Constitutional Crisis and the English Revolution Introduction to English [...]

    This entry was last updated: September 30, 2014


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