HS-102 Readings

The English Revolution



Moderate Phase:1603-1641

    James I and Charles I were in political conflict with Parliament over revenue raising. In 1628, Parliament passed the Petition of Rights which would require their approval of any taxation imposed upon them by the King. King Charles I adjourned Parliament and ruled without benefit of Parliament for 11 years. This involved a difficult effort to raise revenues since Parliament represented the ruling elite of England, and without their cooperation, the King was deprived of major sources of financial support. When, in 1639, a rebellion occurred in Scotland, King Charles convened Parliament in order to finance the raising of an army. Once again, Parliament refused to cooperate. When the King, in frustration, ordered the Parliament to adjourn, Parliamentary leaders refused. This act of defiance brought an end to the period of political maneuvering. Both sides took up arms and a Civil War followed.

Radical phase: 1641- 1660:

    In the Civil War, an army led by Oliver Cromwell, a leader in Parliament and a Puritan, was victorious. The Parliament, under the direction of Cromwell, tried the King for treason, convicted him and executed him. Many members of Parliament wanted nothing to do with this action and abandoned the legislature, leaving only a "rump" Parliament to obey Cromwell's orders.  Cromwell had established a military dictatorship. Puritanism became the state-supported religion. The majority of the ruling elite of the English people did not accept Cromwell's rule. He was an illegitimate ruler. That is, he had no claim to rule based upon inheritance. Therefore, his dictatorship survived only until his death in 1658.

Counter-revolutionary phase:1660-1688:

    Parliament re-asserted its authority after the death of Cromwell, and invited the son of King Charles to return from exile and take the throne as King Charles II. The restoration of the monarchy marks the end of the radical phase of the revolution and the beginning of the counter-revolutionary phase. The English political elite held the monarchy in high regard, and through the restoration, returned to the principle of inheritance as a basis of legitimacy. On the other hand, Charles II realized the limitations on the power of the king and worked cooperatively with Parliament, finding allies among the conservative faction of Parliament. Therefore, the system involved elements of old and new, since the Parliament reflected the principle of elections. After a successful reign, Charles died in 1685 and was succeeded by by his brother, James II. When James began to follow a policy of arbitrary monarchical power, and prepared to raise his son, the heir to the throne, as a Catholic, the Parliament acted against him. He was deposed by Parliament in 1688, in a bloodless coup known as the Glorious Revolution. The Parliament issued a Bill of Rights and the invited a new king to the throne. By this act, Parliament asserted its supremacy over the King, and became clearly recognized in England as the supreme power in a Constitutional Monarchy. The liberal revolution brought fundamental change to the English political system, but the counter-revolution, by restoring the monarchy, swung the pendulum back to some extent.

West Homepage

Historical Analysis