Absolutism in the Seventeenth Century British Context The

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Absolutism in the Seventeenth Century British Context

Absolutism in the Seventeenth Century British Context

The early C 17 th fear of ‘absolute’ power Thomas Hobbes, Behemoth (written 1668,

The early C 17 th fear of ‘absolute’ power Thomas Hobbes, Behemoth (written 1668, published 1679): ‘The greatest part of the Lords in Parliament, and the Gentry throughout England, were more affected to Monarchy than to a Popular Government; but so, as not to endure to hear of the King's absolute Power, which made them in time of Parliament easily to condescend to abridge it, and bring the Government to mixt Monarchy, as they called it, wherein the absolute Sovereignty should be divided between the King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons’.

‘Popery and arbitrary government’ • Two C 17 th revolutions • Arbitrary power –

‘Popery and arbitrary government’ • Two C 17 th revolutions • Arbitrary power – the emasculation of Parliament, either by refusing to summon it or let it sit, or by packing it with Court supporters or by trying to regulate elections to ensure a compliant Parliament. • Popery – fear that catholicism had increasing influence at Court: conversion of James duke of York, the future James II, to catholicism; the influence of French catholic mistress, Louise de Querouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth - right; the ‘Popish Plot’ of 1678 • French style government? Worries about emulation/admiration of Louis XIV

Charles II and James II in imperial poses

Charles II and James II in imperial poses

1688: The First Modern Revolution? • Steve Pincus (1688: The First Modern Revolution, 2011):

1688: The First Modern Revolution? • Steve Pincus (1688: The First Modern Revolution, 2011): Britain faced two alternatives models of state development • Dutch invasion and popular violence against catholic targets – violence esp in Ireland Scotland

Did the eclipse of absolutism mean a free state? • Constitution – bill of

Did the eclipse of absolutism mean a free state? • Constitution – bill of rights • Frequent Parliaments • Ideology of consent and liberty • Religious toleration but • Suppression of Irish catholics • Union with Scotland despite opposition • Ideology of security of property could justify enslavement of Africans • War against France meant an unprecedented degree of taxation

 • By the time peace was signed in 1697, the war had cost

• By the time peace was signed in 1697, the war had cost £ 49 m - three times the average level of expenditure during James's reign • 1702 -14 national debt of £ 35 million. Average of £ 5 m a year of taxation (3 times level under Charles II). Total cost of war 1702 -14 about £ 100 m. • National debt rose enormously • Did the eclipse of absolutism mean a less powerful state? Ironically it probably led to a stronger ‘fiscal-military’ state. The post-revolutionary state was able to achieve what had evaded the attempts by absolutist rulers 1721

The ‘fiscal-military state’ • GB was at war more frequently and on a wider

The ‘fiscal-military state’ • GB was at war more frequently and on a wider scale than ever before: • 1689 -1697 (Nine Years War), 1702 -1713 (War of Spanish Succession), • 1718 -20 (War of the Quadruple Alliance) • 1739 -48 (War of Jenkin’s Ear; War of Austrian Succession) • Some critics by 1720 feared that a new type of ‘behemoth’ had been created that encroached on popular freedoms and liberties