The English Revolution is the name given to a series of conflicts that took place in England between 1640 and 1688 and that led to the transition from the absolutist monarchy to the parliamentary monarchy – a model adopted until today in the country. English Revolution summary
This revolution marks the end of absolutism and takes place in the context of the rise of the bourgeoisie, which strengthened between the 15th and 16th centuries and began to demand political changes.
The 48-year period of the English Revolution can be divided into 4 phases: Civil War and Puritan Revolution, Oliver Cromwell’s Republic, Restoration of the Stuart Dynasty and Glorious Revolution. But before entering the phases of the revolution, it is important to understand the context of the 16th and 17th centuries in England.
The context and causes of the English Revolution
Throughout the 15th century, England was ruled by the Tudor dynasty , whose main monarchs were King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. English Revolution summary
In this period, there was the strengthening of the bourgeois class , especially after the Anglican Revolution, when feudal lands that were in the domain of the Catholic Church became private property.
These lands began to be used by the bourgeois for mineral exploration or agriculture, causing a great rural exodus. It was the beginning of land use from a capitalist logic.
In 1603, Elizabeth I dies and the Stuart dynasty begins , with King James I. To maintain monarchical and absolutist power, James I begins to adopt measures to contain the advance of the bourgeoisie, such as raising taxes and dissolving parliament. .
In recent years the burghers had gained strength in the House of Commons , which was opposed to the House of Lords in parliament. The House of Lords supported the Crown.
The conflict between the different strata of society also had a religious character. King Charles I was more related to the Catholic Church, while the bourgeoisie was more adept at Puritanism, a Protestant religion.
Charles I ruled without consulting parliament, which was dissolved when he took power. In 1940, however, due to financial difficulties faced by England, King Charles I decided to consult parliament to raise taxes.
Parliament did not accept the increase in taxes and tried to demand more political participation from the king. Dissatisfied, the king dissolved parliament again and thus began the first phase of the English Revolution, called the Civil War or Puritan Revolution.
Puritan Revolution and Civil War (1640 – 1649)
This phase is characterized by conflict between the king and parliament . The king’s supporters were Catholics, Anglicans and the nobility. Parliament’s supporters were the bourgeoisie, the gentry and the Puritans. ( Gentry were wealthy people who did not have the title of noble). English Revolution summary
At first the King’s army obtained some advantages, but the military chief of Parliament’s army, Oliver Cromwell , adopts some measures that would guarantee him victory in the conflict.
Cromwell defines that the high posts of the army would be occupied by meritocracy and begins to train his troops. The army of parliament was called “roundheads” as they refused to wear wigs like nobles.
Oliver Cromwell and the Roundheads win the war. Charles I flees to Scotland, but upon returning to England he is convicted of treason and beheaded.
Within the army of parliament, during the Civil War, two radical groups emerged: the Levellers and the Diggers .
- Levellers : advocated equal rights, democracy and universal suffrage.
- Diggers : rural workers who advocated agrarian reform.
Oliver Cromwell’s Republic (1649 – 1658)
With the death of King Charles I, Oliver Cromwell assumes power and calls himself “Lord Protector of the Republic” . The measures adopted by Cromwell sought to benefit the bourgeoisie. English Revolution summary
One of his most famous actions was the Navigation Acts , according to which any product arriving in England must be on an English ship. This protectionist measure benefited English merchants and contributed to economic growth in the period.
Cromwell, however, following the model of the leaders he had fought against, becomes an authoritarian leader . In 1653 he dissolves parliament and kills leaders of the Levellers and Diggers , who had helped him to win the Civil War.
In 1658 Oliver Cromwell dies and his son Richard Cromwell assumes power. Richard resigns from power and then parliament restores the monarchy with the Stuart family, placing Charles II, the son of the beheaded king, on the throne.
Restoration of the Stuart Dynasty (1660 – 1688)
Charles II begins his government by allowing the participation of parliament, but then begins to articulate with members of the nobility, carries out religious persecutions against the Puritans and in 1681 dissolves parliament.
In 1685 Charles II dies and James II takes over, who continues to adopt measures to harm the bourgeoisie and members of parliament. Parliament then plans a conspiracy to wrest power from James II, paving the way for the Glorious Revolution. English Revolution summary
Glorious Revolution (1688)
Parliament proposes that William of Orange assume power in England. William was governor of the Netherlands (now Holland) and married Mary II, daughter of James II.
William would become King of England on condition that he accept the Bill of Rights Act , also known as the Bill of Rights 1689 . This law determined that the king was inferior to parliament and that whoever governs, in fact, was the prime minister and the other parliamentarians.
William of Orange accepts the proposal and invades England. As there was no reaction on the part of James II, nor any kind of violence, this episode became known as the Glorious Revolution.
The Glorious Revolution puts an end to the English Revolution and the absolutist monarchy, inaugurating the parliamentary monarchy, which is in effect to this day. English Revolution summary
In this new political model, the bourgeoisie obtains a majority in parliament , which explains the outbreak of the Industrial Revolution years later.