English Revolution

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"English Revolution" has been used to describe two different events in English history. The first was the Glorious Revolution of 1688, whereby James II was replaced by William III and Mary II as monarch and a constitutional monarchy established, was described by Whig historians as the English Revolution.[1]

In the twentieth-century, however, Marxist historians used the term "English Revolution" to describe the period of the English Civil Wars and Commonwealth period (1640–1660), in which Parliament challenged King Charles I's authority, engaged in civil conflict against his forces, and executed him in 1649. This was followed by a ten-year period of bourgeois republican government, the "Commonwealth", before monarchy was restored in the shape of Charles' son, Charles II, in 1660.

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Whig theory

The Glorious Revolution of 1688, whereby James II was replaced by William III and Mary II as monarch and a constitutional monarchy established, was described by Whig historians as the English Revolution.[1] This interpretation suggests that the "English Revolution" was the final act in the long process of reform and consolidation by Parliament to achieve a balanced constitutional monarchy in Britain. and laws were made that pointed towards freedom.

Marxist theory

The Marxist view of the English Revolution suggests that the events of 1640 to 1660 in Britain was a bourgeois revolution in which the final section of English feudalism (the state) was destroyed by a bourgeois class (and its supporters) and replaced with a state (and society) which reflected the wider establishment of agrarian (and later industrial) capitalism. Such an analysis sees the English Revolution as pivotal in the transition from feudalism to capitalism and from a feudal state to a capitalist state in Britain.

According to Marxist historian Christopher Hill:

"The Civil War was a class war, in which the despotism of Charles I was defended by the reactionary forces of the established Church and conservative landlords, and on the other side stood the trading and industrial classes in town and countryside . . . the yeomen and progressive gentry, and . . . wider masses of the population whenever they were able by free discussion to understand what the struggle was really about."[2]

Later developments of the Marxist view moved on from the theory of bourgeois revolution to suggest that the English Revolution anticipated the French and later revolutions in the field of popular administrative and economic gains. Along with the expansion of Parliamentary power the Revolution broke down many of the old power relations in both rural and urban English society. The guild democracy movement of the period won its greatest successes among London's transport workers, most notably the Thames Watermen, who democratized their company in 1641-42. And with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, rural communities began to seize timber and other resources on the estates of royalists, Catholics, the royal family and the church hierarchy. Some communities improved their conditions of tenure on such estates.

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