Uploaded by crafty on Oct 27, 2002
The history of the English Revolution from 1649 to 1660 can be briefly told. Cromwell’s shooting of the Levellers at Burford made a restoration of monarchy and lords ultimately inevitable, for the breach of big bourgeoisie and gentry with the popular forces meant that their government could only be maintained either by an army (which in the long ran proved crushingly expensive as well as difficult to control) or by a compromise with the surviving representatives of the old order. But first there were still tasks to be done.
(1) There was the conquest of Ireland, the expropriation of its landowners and peasantry - the first big triumph of English imperialism and the first big defeat of English democracy. For the petty bourgeoisie of the Army, despite the warnings of many of the Leveller leaders, allowed themselves to be distracted from establishing their own liberties in England and, deluded by religious slogans, to destroy those of the Irish. Many of them set up as landed proprietors in Ireland. (The Leveller revolt of 1649 had been occasioned by the refusal of many of the rank and file to leave for Ireland, for that meant violating their Engagement of 1647 not to divide until the liberties of England were secure.) (2) There was the conquest of Scotland, necessary to prevent a restoration of the old order thence; Scotland was opened up to English traders by political union. (3) A forward commercial policy was undertaken with the Navigation Act of 1651, the basis of England’s commercial prosperity in the next century. This aimed at winning the carrying trade of Europe for English ships, and at excluding all rivals from trade with England’s colonies. It led to a war with the Dutch, who had monopolised the carrying trade of the world in the first half of the seventeenth century. For in that period the royal policy had frustrated all attempts of the bourgeoisie to throw the resources of England into an effective struggle for this trade. In this war, thanks to Blake’s fleet and the economic strength the Republican Government was able to mobilise, England was victorious. (4) An imperialist policy needed the strong Navy which Charles had failed to build up, and under Blake the Commonwealth began to rule the waves to some purpose; war in alliance with France against Spain brought Jamaica and Dunkirk to England. (5) The abolition of feudal tenures meant...