November 21st, 2021
The book is off to a slow start. After a quick prologue describing the James I ascension, the first chapter mainly discusses economics of the century. As I've mentioned, I find economics very boring. There were very rich nobles and rich gentry members. The gentry was growing as more titles and peerage were created, largely for the king to make money, but they also held growing power in the House of Commons. The yeomen were the backbone of the country and owned and worked the land. The other 75% of the population were peasants and laborers, barely making enough money for food. Though they lived in hovels, they could still afford white meat and black bread, while those in the country side could grow on the land and use common pasturage. Potatoes had not yet become the staple of the poor. Industrialization was minimal. The wool industry was still the primary industry, as it had been for centuries, but most looms and what not were found in the home. War and depressions would come to hurt the trade in this century. Coal mining was rapidly increasing as deforestation surged wood prices. This is one of the earliest “capitalistic” industries, as creating a coal mine was a huge investment. The main investors were those who were already wealthy from joint-stock oversea trading and the iron industry. Like I said, kind of boring.
November 22nd, 2021
The next chapter discusses the state of religion at the beginning of the century. Catholicism took a dive during the Tudor era. They were still widely oppressed, though James was to be fairly tolerant as long as they didn’t try to assassinate him. The Church of England was the powerhouse, while a Puritan minority was growing. Bishops of the church made a poor living and thus took several “livings” in which they were supposed to preach. Many did not preach anywhere. The Puritans had approached the king on his way to his ascension with their grievances, including this and other things such as “idolatrous” ceremonies like marriage rings. James was sympathetic and held a meeting of bishops and Puritan leaders to bring some reform to the CoE, but this did not satisfy the bishops. As time goes on, the Puritan movement will have a backing in the House of Commons which will bring tensions to the leading members of the state.
November 23rd, 2021
The rest of the book looks like it will go sequentially through the reigns of the kings. The first goes through the 20 year or so year reign of James I, who is spoken of favorably by the author. Described as an intelligent and peaceful king, he ended the war with Spain that had taken up 20 years of Elizabeth’s reign. After this, however, the House of Commons refused to raise taxes to support the royal spending. There was a lot of conflict between the king’s divine rights/royal prerogative and the House of Commons attempts to regain its ancient rights of power, which the author claims were fiction. James continued to try to find a middle ground and resolve the ongoing religious conferences at home. The negatives listed by the author were that, as many leaders do, James surrounded himself with some less than useful people, mainly the man he made the Duke of Buckingham. In the reign of his son, Charles I, this relationship will apparently lead to some very bad results. In foreign policy, James tried to maintain peace. To further cement peace with Spain, he spent a long time trying to marry the daughter of the King of Spain, then a Hapsburg kingdom. They refused, mainly on the grounds that England were non-Catholic heathens, and James was furious. This happened during the opening of the 30 years war, when his son-in-law, Frederick of the Palatinate, was elected King of Bohemia and replaced an Austrian Hapsburg. This led to war, and the King of Spain aided his relative. James then provided support for his son-in-law and the Protestant movement, which also pleased a Spain-hating Parliament. James died in 1625 and his second son, Charlies I, became king of England and Scotland.
November 24th, 2021
Charles I had an even harder time with the Commons than his father, and was less apt at dealing with it. Like his father, he still depended on the Commons for money. There was still a war with Spain, and it was not going well. There were no real capable commanders, and this is before the time of England’s domination of the seas, even though we’re past the Spanish Armada. Charles was sympathetic towards Catholics, and married Louis XIII’s sister. The English, however, were supportive of the Huguenots, and this led to another disastrous war for Charles. Also during this time, the Dutch were becoming and economic and colonial power, which soured relations with its old ally England. With parliament not giving him the money he wanted, Charles took levies from imports (illegally according to the Commons) and enacted other taxes. The House of Commons grew more bold and demanded more, even got to the point where the held the Speaker in his chair to continue a session. Then came the time where Charles dissolved parliament, which did not meet again for 11 years. According to the author, the “11 Years of Tyranny” went pretty well for the peasant class. Charles apparently took good care of the poor and acted against people enclosing common land. For the downsides, Charles lived too extravagantly and surrounded himself with men of equally weak characters, like the Duke of Buckingham. Much to the pleasure of Parliament, the Duke was assassinated before leading a naval excursion. After the 11 years, Charles tried to force a new prayer book in Scotland, which led to an uprising. In order to raise funds for a larger army, he reconvened parliament. First of all, all of these people take their religion too seriously. Second, it seems the House of Commons was grabbing power it had no right too. Instead of looking after important internal affairs, they focused purely on religion. I’m still curious how the House of Commons became a Puritan stronghold. It’s a shame a government institution could be held hostage by religious extremists. Sometimes reform goes too far.
November 26th, 2021
After Charles I reconvened Parliament in 1640, he abolished this “Short Parliament” after 3 weeks because they would not give him the money he wanted. After losing the north to the Scottish rebels, he was forced to reconvene Parliament a few months later, the “Long Parliament”. The reformists held a significant majority in the Parliament and forced their will upon the kingdom. The king’s advisor, the Earl of Strafford, Lord Deputy of Ireland, was executed for allegedly raising an Irish army to put down Parliament. The King himself had to sign the death warrant, but nothing was gained by Strafford’s death. Archbishop Laud was imprisoned and also ultimately executed. The Parliament then passed laws that made Parliament automatically reconvene every three years and attempted to remove bishops from the church. After trying to control the army, many reformists backed down and the House of Commons was fairly evenly split. Charles attempted to raise the London militia against the House, but London was firmly on the side of Parliament. The Civil War had begun, and despite his previous military problems, the king was able to raise an army in the west and north that stood was a match for Parliament’s army of the industrial regions. The Scots allied with Parliament, and this would in time decide the war. Charles could not wage a war on two fronts. Towards the end of the war, the Parliamentary forces were reorganized in a “New Model Army”, which had Fairfax as lead general and Cromwell a prominent inferior commander. The author claims that the war was not fought over religion, despite its catalyst, but as a struggle between the waning economic power of the crown and the growing economic power of the gentry. It was said that the House of Commons was worth more than the House of Lords. With economic power comes demands for political power. The first Civil War ended in 1646, which Charles abandoning Oxford and fleeing to Scotland, where he was turned over to Parliament. The House of Commons, now in power, started to eat its own. The Scots and English were in talks of unifying their churches, which Cromwell and his Independents were not interested in. They wanted pure freedom of thought. Charles also refused to go along with the Presbyterian-CoE union. Parliament was trying to dismantle the army after the war and there were disagreements about payment and whatnot. Charles escaped and there were some more royalist uprisings, but this Second Civil war lasted only a few months of 1648. Shortly after, Cromwell’s faction purged the House of Common of non-allies and a “Rump Parliament” voted to execute the king, mostly forced by Cromwell. Cromwell was now left to fill the power void.
November 27th, 2021
Things did not fall into place with the execution of Charles I. A Commonwealth was declared and the Rump Parliament remained the legistative power. The executive was to be a Council of State, whose members were elected annually. Not everyone was pleased with this, and the “Levellers” were men who advocated for manhood suffrage and a freely elected parliament. The gentry and those in power stomped out these ideas, as they feared a system which the poor could rule the rich and how it would affect their property. Ireland had long been in revolt, with the English seeking vengeance for a massacre of 1641. Cromwell led an expidition there in 1649 to destroy the Royalists, and many Irish were slaughtered. Charles II, a 19 year old in exile, was approached by the Scottish to become King, under their own Presbyterian terms. Charles bided his time until the Royalists in Ireland were decimated and then took up the Scottish offer. In 1650, Charles went to Scotland, and Cromwell was recalled to fight the Scottish. General Fairfax was on the outs for being against war in Scotland and the execution of Charles I. Cromwell, now the leading figure in England, successfully waged war against Scotland and Charles, now coronated at the Stone of Scone, had to flee. A sort of economic war on the seas had broken out with the Dutch, which gave England further domination of the seas. In 1653, impatient with the lack of consitutional reform from Parliament, their shrinking of the army, and their plans to pass a bill for a perpetual Parliament, Cromwell used the army to force out the parliament. Now Cromwell was the military ruler of England, but struggled to find a form of government that suited him. Different councils were created and dissolved, and Cromwell learned, like Charles I, that he could not get the funds to run a country without parliament. There was talk of bringing back a king, or making Cromwell king. Ultimately he refused, and died in 1658. After his death, there was more confusion. His eldest son was given the role, but was fairly useless. The Rump Parliament was reconvened after 5 years, but quickly dissolved. Cromwell’s second in command then invited Charles II to reign, under terms, which Charles agreed to. Cromwell learned the hard way the one revolution leads to another, as his authority was put under the same scrutiny as the King’s. His strong belief of liberty of conscience was enshrined in the constitution, though it was limited to his strict definition of Christians. He also gave a good name to England’s military and navy. Like Napoleon, he brought an end to (local) chaos brought by 10 years of war. However, he executed the king and killed thousands of Irish, so ultimately he’s not a good man. Though few in power are.
November 28th, 2021
This chapter discusses the various thoughts of the Civil War and Interregnum years, 1640-1660. Under the Puritan rule, the plays and poetry of the previous era went to the wayside. Most writing was political or religious. In contrast to the Puritan's dogmatism, there was a strong opinion that the differences in religious opinion did not matter and were irrelevant. These men were “moderates”, like Laud, and another of note was Lord Falkland. Cromwell agreed with these men in the “liberty of non-essentials”. The “liberty of conscience” Puritans were a minority. English Presbyterians were not as strong believers as Church-ruled state as the Scots, but they were intolerant and opposed to democracy and republicanism. They wanted a strong parliament of “good” men and a limited monarchy. Calvinists as a principle opposed popular government. Only Cromwell and the “Independents”, who believe all Christian believers were equal and had a right to their own thoughts could lead to the modern individual equality. John Lilburne and the Levellers went one step further and wanted manhood suffrage, which Cromwell feared. The Diggers went even further and promoted a sort of proto-communism and established a communal farm, which was destroyed by the Puritans. All these had in common were a search for the “true way” a Christian should live. The major political writers of the time, who have impacted thought since, were Thomas Hobbes and James Harrington. Hobbes' “Leviathan” describes how an absolute ruler comes to be and the importance of one to prevent anarchy and war. Only this strong ruler can keep the peace. Harrington's “The Commonwealth of Oceana” was a refutation of Hobbes and stated the strong ruler relies on a strong army. He then described the importance of land/property to a stable society. He believed property should be limited to a maximum amount per man. The English kings had lost their power because they sold their estates for money, and the new landed gentry was able to take power. He advocated the ballot in elections, a senate similar to the one described in the US constitution (aristocratic, not elected) which would make and debate laws, with a popularly elected house to vote on the laws. This would be a democracy+aristocracy and have benefits to both. It goes without saying how influential this has been. I really should read Hobbes and Harrington. There seem to be some really important stuff in their writings, which obviously came to inspire the republicanism of the US. Lastly, the author talks a bit about the Puritan poet Milton and “Paradise Lost”. I don't know if that's a must read, but if I have time, it is part of the English canon.
December 15th 2021
1660, the monarchy is restored under Charles II, though not to its former glory. Many forms of revenue raising for the King had been revoked. Parliament was back to its Pre-Cromwell structure, and the Scots and Irish were on the outs. The CoE was given back its bishoprics, though the undertones of Puritanism remained. Charles was smart, a bit lazy and had expensive taste. His chief minister was Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, whose son-in-law was the future James I. Clarendon was a chief orchestrator behind the peaceful Restoration. Parliament was in charge of convictions for the rebellion, and with the king’s blessing, only 30 individuals were convicted of treason. Most people who lost their land could request it back, but mostly the big landowners gained more land. Religion remained a touchy subject, and the Clarendon Code imposed penalties on “dissenters”. This was very unpopular, so was the selling of Dunkirk to France. Due to Parliaments tight wallets, Charles resorted to working with his pal the French King Louis XIV for funds. His marriage to a Portuguese princess brought an ally, but no children. War with the Dutch broke out in 1665, and was embarrassing for England. They were able to sail to Chatham and take the flagship of the navy. During this time, plague broke out and killed 68k, followed by the Great Fire of London. This burned down all the thatch houses and were replaced with brick which may have prevented future outbreaks. All these problems led to Clarendon become a scapegoat and he was exiled. Then the English allied with the Dutch to scare off the French, who were vying for Spanish Hapsburg possessions, and the crown. Then in 1670 the English were back in the French fold and anti-Dutch. A third Dutch war broke out in 1672, which also was a bust. All the while, Charles II was becoming more lenient towards Catholics, and his brother James had even converted. This spells trouble to the staunchly Puritan men that run the country.
December 16th, 2021
It’s probably me, but I find it hard to retain anything from this book. It might be too dense. There is a lot of information in little 12 page chapters. Chapter 10 is about the second half of the reign of Charles II, 1674-1685. This era saw the rise of political parties. At first, there was the pro-king Court party and opposition Country party. Lord Danby, the Lord Treasurer, controlled the Court party and bribed members of the Commons to keep the government running. Louis XIV was still bribing Charles II to support him in his Dutch and Spanish wars. The Country party was led by former CABAL members (the “cabinet” after Clarendon), Lords Buckingham and Shaftesbury. Anti-French feeling was too strong for the king to overcome, and despite three secret treaties, he agreed to the marriage between James’ daughter Mary and William of Orange. Mary was not a Catholic like her father. Many were convinced of Catholic plots and French plots to get a Catholic on the throne. Titus Oates and Israel Tonge made up a plot that there was a plan to assassinate the king to put the Duke of York on the throne. It was eventually taken seriously, somehow, and men were executed and James was exiled. Parliament began making outrageous demands and was dissolved. Elections in 1679 were a defeat for the Court, and Danby was dismissed. Parliament (known as the Exclusionist P.) introduced a bill to ban James from the throne, and was dissolved by the king. The opposition began to back James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, Charles’ II illegitimate son as heir. The third parliament tried another Exclusion Bill, rejected by the House of Lords. At this time, political meetings in London led to the pejoratives “Whig” (a Scottish outlaw) and “Tory” (Irish robber) to be applied to these “parties”. Whigs were exclusionists, Tories loyal to hereditary monarchy. Charles summoned a new parliament in Oxford, away from London mobs, but it was a dud and dissolved. Whigs came armed to protest it. There was a “Royalist Reaction” and the Cavalier spirit was refreshed. Sympathy for Charles brought a pro-king feeling and the Tories grasped for power. A decent number of Whigs were exiled or killed for various reasons, and James returned from exile. Charles II fell ill and later died on February 6th, 1685. James II took the throne, the first Catholic since Mary I 130 years before.
December 18th, 2021
The author describes the reign of Charles II as the Age of Experiment, which he calls the dying of the Middle Ages in England and the birth of the modern world. In the Church, the idea of toleration was to become accepted as banishing dissenters died out. As talked about, the party system was born, as was limited monarchy. The sciences began to modernize. Random experimentation and alchemy was replaced by the scientific method in this era of Newton. The Royal Society was establish, a scientific body, and Newton published his Principia in 1687. Science and math were slowly added to education, which was previously solely the “classics”. Henry Purcell became renown in music. Theater was brought back after its ban during the Interregum, finally featuring females played by women. I’m not too interested in the dramas and whatnot. Political writings were big, despite censorship. Something I may want to read is Discourses Concerning Government by Algernon Sidney, which led to his arrest and beheading. Importantly, the country was done with absolute monarchy by the time James II took the throne.
The next chapter is about James II short reign, 1685-1689. He was more arrogant and less likable than his brother. Despite his Catholicism, he was coronated with no problems, thanks to the work of the Tories at the end of Charles II reign. He immediately called a parliament and the royalists had a major victory in the elections. But there was a rebellion. The Earl of Argyll and the Duke of Monmouth landed with armies. They were disconcerted, one a republican and the other intending for the throne. They were defeated and executed, but despite their poor planning, they almost won. Many of the peasants flocked to Monmouuth and he nearly won his battle at Sedgemoor. The victory got to James’ head and he wanted to emulate Louis XIV. In the name of tolerance, he put many Catholics in high positions, which the Tories found to be too much too soon. He tried to get the Test Acts repealed, which only allowed members of the C of E to hold public office. This aliened more people. Mary and Anne, James’s surviving children, did not approve of his actions. Louis XIV was stirring up more territorial wars on the mainland, and William of Orange was worried that James (his father-in-law) would side with France. By April 1688, William was considering invading England to put his wife on the throne. Then in June, James at 60 something had a son. In fear of a Catholic dynasty through this son, James (III), the English gentry invited William to come to England. The Glorious Revolution was underway. Absolutism would not be tolerated in a post-Revolution world, and there would be no more Catholics. James, not wanting to lose his head, hesitated to leave safety and head an army. William took the country without a battle, and James fled. The parliament considered James as having abdicated by fleeing and declared William and Mary co-regents. This was accompanied with a Bill of Rights that limited the monarchy’s ability to suspend laws and maintain a standing army. James, with French backing, tried to raise an army in Ireland. William showed his real intents by bringing England into his Dutch war against France.
December 19th, 2021
William and Mary’s reign lasted only until 1702, with Mary II dying from smallpox in 1694. I’d like to note that William was the son of Mary, daughter of Charles I, thus William and Mary were first cousins. William III was in charge and generally unlikable, and had a strong disdain for France. The war with France was eventually won due to English naval power, the French unable to maintain a strong fleet in both the Channel and Mediterranean. James II uprising did not go far, and on June 30, 1690 he was defeated at the Battle of Boyne, in Ireland. James II fled to France and die there in 1701. With James out of the way, war between France and the Coalition would go back and forth until 1697. The Whigs were annoyed with William because he placed Tories in his cabinet. William was obliged to accept a Triennial Bill in 1695, which forced parliament to at least every three years and may not sit for more than three years. William had little respect for the English parties and know that Tories, Jacobites, and even Whigs were in touch with James II in France. He never trusted the English, so this had little affect on him. To pay for the war a Lottery Act was passed and the Bank of England was founded. The crown was no dependent on the Bank, which was controlled by the legislature, pointing the king in an even more dependent position. Int he Peace of Ryswick, Louis XVI gave up almost all his conquests. This was fine, as he was expecting much out of the death of the childless Habsburg Spanish King Charles II. After 1694, the Whigs controlled the government but fell out over accusations of being Jacobites. The next election in 1698 brought back the Tories, who reduced the standing army and did other things that made William threaten to abdicate. Many secret agreements between England and France and some Germans were made about how to divvy up the Spanish empire. But the Tory parliament of 1700 did not care about Spain. They passed the Act of Settlement. Since William and Mary’s kids all died, the throne would go to Anne. Since all of Anne’s kids died, the throne would go to Sophia of Hanover, a granddaughter of James I, thus a cousin of Charles II and James II, and her heirs. Catholics were banned from the throne. There were also a lot of items banned in there that William had done. When the King of Spain died on November 1, 1700, somehow he made up his will that throne would go to his half-sister’s grandson. This half-sister was Louis XIV’s wife, and so he dropped all previous arrangements to put his grandson, Philip of Anjou on the throne. He also made a tactical error. When James II died, Louis recognized James’ son as the heir to England. These things combined led to war, which William would not wage. He died only 4 months later. Queen Anne would fight the war.
December 20th, 2021
Queen Anne’s reign was mostly concerned with the War of Spanish Succession, or Queen Anne’s War here in America. There’s generally not a lot to say about wars. It lasted from from her taking the throne in 1702 until the Peace of Utrecht in 1713. The English were still allied with the Dutch, various Habsburgs (Austria, Savoy, Baden). The Portuguese later joined the coalition, and probably more states. The French, with Philip in control of Spain, had the Bavaria as an ally. The key player, and supreme commander, was John Churchill, Earl (later Duke) of Marlborough. Another important ally was Prince Eugene of Savoy. They had some major victories and innovative strategies that embarrassed the French and took Bavaria out of the war. The French had not had such defeats since the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign. But no peace could be made and Coalition proposals were unacceptable to France. The French were able to hold their heads above water, and the war lasted 11 years. The chapter also talks about domestic affairs, but it’s all back and forth between Whigs and Tories. By 1710, the people were sick of war and there was a huge Tory victory of the elections. Marlborough was dismissed, unfortunately, and the British essentially stopped fighting. Prince Eugene was defeated in 1712, and peace was made shortly after. I’ll have to wait for the next chapter to see what the treaty contains.
December 22nd, 2021
The next chapter describes the Peace of Utrecht and England’s colonialism. The Peace of Utrecht, which sounds like a separate peace for England at the expense of its allies, kept Phillip of Anjou on the Spanish throne, but he had to renounce his rights to the French throne. Charles had succeeded to the Austrian throne, so it seemed like a bad idea to let him have both. Britain got a lot of trade benefits, Dunkirk, Gibraltar, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and lots of its other takings. They also emerged from war as top naval power. Its colonial age really began under James I, despite some probings by Sir Walter Raleigh in Elizabeth’s reign. Virginia and Plymouth came to being under James I, while many more came under Charles I. During the Interregnum, the English got Jamaica (or maybe it was Bermuda), somewhere for growing sugar. Charles II gave away Pennsylvania, and I believe got a hold of the Dutch holdings. The American colonies were very independent and resented the Navigation Acts, which held them to use only English ships for trading. Of course, they did everything they could to bypass it. This would be an issue until the Revolutionary War. Ireland was colonized during this time too. Scottish Presbyterians, chased out by Cromwell and the like, were used to push out the native Catholics. The Irish sided with Charles I and James II and were punished for their actions. The Scottish eventually got treated like equals and were united in Parliament with England, though many Scots resent this union to this day.
December 23rd, 2021
Read the last chapter today, which is about England under Queen Anne. Things were generally good and, after the war, people were better off than they had been in centuries. Wages were high, good food was readily available. A lot of this better well-being was due to the large rise of commerce and industry. It is estimated the value of foreign trade increased at least threefold during Queen Anne’s reign. Trade to certain regions was controlled by “companies”, who had monopolies, but it was essentially a merchants’ club which you paid to enter and abided by their rules. During the wars, people could sneak into these trade routes without joining. The companies had to upkeep diplomatic and military stations and compelled to loan money to the government. By Queen Anne’s reign, the monopoly era was near death. People were tired of them and wanted open trade, the Tories at least. This fast expansion of trade was due to the industrial progress of the 17th century. Religious tension had lessened but was still a frequent debate. There was still hostility towards those who were not part of the CoE. Laws were passed against Catholics and Non-conformists, but the drastic violence of prior eras was gone. Clergy were getting better earnings and were becoming a more respectable class. The Puritans had lost the political battle at the Restoration, but their morality had pervaded society and became dominant. There’s quite a bit about John Locke, who I’ve never read either. I should read his work, considering how much he has affected English and especially American history. The author says his ideas essentially justified the Glorious Revolution (after the fact). Government is a “contract”, not a divine right, and when the contract is broken, the leader can be replaced. This is very different from Hobbes who believed in the need of authoritarianism, or society would collapse. Well, the GR proved him wrong. Daniel Defoe was also an active writer at the time, apparently a journalist, and a Dissenter who’s writings got him prison time. Locke was also from a Dissenter background, but had Whig friends in high places. The main takeaway is that in the 17th century, we enter the modern world. Tudor absolutism had died and, after the republican experiment, the Royalist reaction led to the Glorious Revolution and a chosen government. The House of Commons had asserted its power, despite the electorate still being very small, the “cabinet” government was forming, and the medieval economy was vanishing. In an epilogue about the death of Queen Anne, a debate over succession is discussed. Anne was often seriously ill, and the question of whether the government should follow the Act of Settlement and give the crown to Hanover, or to the Old Pretender. Unfortunately for the Jacobite, young James would not give up Catholicism. He was no-go. There was drama in the cabinet. Lord Treasurer Harley was dismissed and Bolingbroke, despite being refused the job, had ultimate power as Secretary of State. Bolingbroke was still flirting with the idea of working with the Jacobites. The Duke of Shrewsbury orchestrated that he be Lord Treasurer, and received the job from Anne on her death bed. Queen Anne was the last monarch of the “old school”. Shrewsbury had prepared everything for the succession of George I (Sohpia had died in May). He inherited a peaceable country with the two crowns firmly united. Barely knowing the language or understanding English politics, the crown would have to rely on the elected government.