Politics, Finance and Government

  • Lionel K. J. Glassey
Part of the Problems in Focus Series book series (PFS)


One familiar view of the Restoration was well expressed by John Evelyn:

This day [29 May 1660] came in his Majestie Charles the 2d to London after a sad, & long Exile … The wayes straw’d with flowers, the bells ringing, the streetes hung with Tapissry, fountaines running with wine … Trumpets, musick & myriads of people flocking … I stood in the strand, & beheld it, & blessed God: And all this without one drop of bloud.1

Evelyn may well have rubbed shoulders with the Covent Garden barber, Thomas Rugg, who recorded that, ‘beeinge in the Strond’, he listened to ‘such shouting as the oldest man alive never heard the like … all things [done] that might express joy’.2 Thomas Lamplugh, a future Archbishop of York, also witnessed the King’s entry into London. ‘Never was any Prince so welcome to his people’, he told his friends, adding that there had been ‘such acclama[ti]ons as I want words to expresse’.3 North of the border, Edinburgh had rejoiced at the proclamation of Charles II a fortnight earlier. John Nicoll, a lawyer, described in his diary the sound of bells, trumpets and drums, with toasts ‘breking numberis of glasses’, and much ‘dancing about the fyres, and using all uther takins of joy for the advancement and preference of thair native King to his croun and native inheritance’.4


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  1. Two outstanding, up-to-date books, both designed as a general introduction to the political history of the Restoration period, are: Paul Seaward, The Restoration, 1660–1688 (London, 1991);Google Scholar
  2. and Tim Harris, Politics under the Later Stuarts (London, 1993). Neither makes any concessions to over-simplification, yet both are lucid and informative. Their interpretations differ a little in detail, but both emphasize the continuing importance of religion in politics in the period.Google Scholar
  3. For the Restoration itself, R. Hutton, The Restoration: A Political and Religious History of England and Wales, 1658–1667 (Oxford, 1985) deals both with the processes by which the monarchy was restored and with the working out of the Restoration Settlement, and is very strong on the local dimension to national politics.Google Scholar
  4. Paul Seaward, The Cavalier Parliament and the Reconstruction of the Old Regime, 1661–1667 (Cambridge, 1989)Google Scholar
  5. has supplanted D. T. Witcombe, Charles II and the Cavalier House of Commons, 1663–1674 (Manchester, 1966), although the latter is still valuable for the period after 1667,Google Scholar
  6. as is Maurice Lee, Jr, The Cabal (Urbana, Illinois, 1965).Google Scholar
  7. The trilogy by R. L. Greaves, Deliver Us From Evil: The Radical Underground in Britain, 1660–1663 (Oxford, 1986), Enemies Under His Feet: Radicals and Nonconformists in Britain, 1664–1677 (Stanford, California, 1990) and Secrets of the Kingdom: British Radicals from the Popish Plot to the Revolution of 1688–1689 (Stanford, California, 1992), describes the conspiracies and insurrections of Restoration England, Scotland and Ireland in a convincing demonstration of the vulnerability of the reigns of Charles and James. The years of the Popish Plot and the Exclusion Crisis, more than any other subdivision of the period, have been reinterpreted by iconoclastic scholars to the point at which even the use of the conventional phrase ‘Exclusion Crisis’ has been questioned.Google Scholar
  8. In two books by Jonathan Scott, Algernon Sidney and the English Republic, 1623–1677 (Cambridge, 1988) and Algernon Sidney and the Restoration Crisis, 1677–1683 (Cambridge, 1991), the reader is provided both with a study of Sidney and with a sustained examination of the political milieu in which Sidney moved. In particular, the section headed ‘Part One: The Restoration Crisis’ in the second of these volumes is a challenging revision of traditional orthodoxy. Scott’s views include a distrust of the concept of organized political parties and a reluctance to regard the Exclusion Bill as a central feature of the political crisis of the late 1670s and early 1680s, which he regards as more about the wider issues of ‘Popery and arbitrary government’ in the European as much as the British context.Google Scholar
  9. These interpretations are further elaborated by Scott in a number of essays, including an important reassessment of the Popish Plot in Tim Harris, Paul Seaward and Mark Goldie (eds), The Politics of Religion in Restoration England (Oxford, 1990). They are discussed under the collective title ‘Order and Authority: Creating Party in Restoration England’ in Albion, xxv[4] (1993), in which a group of historians including G. S. De Krey, Tim Harris, James M. Rosenheim and R. L. Greaves, as well as Scott himself, analyse some of the issues that Scott has raised.Google Scholar
  10. G. S. De Krey, ‘The London Whigs and the Exclusion Crisis Reconsidered’, in A. L. Beier, David Cannadine and James M. Rosenheim (eds), The First Modern Society: Essays in English History in Honour of Lawrence Stone (Cambridge, 1989) is another valuable contribution to the debate.Google Scholar
  11. Mark Knights, Politics and Opinion in Crisis, 1678–1681 (Cambridge, 1994) has combined an assessment of the differing interpretations of the politics of the late 1670s and early 1680s with a number of insights derived from his own research in a judicious and important study.Google Scholar
  12. The books on the Exclusion Crisis published before this wealth of new interpretation emerged include: J. R. Jones, The First Whigs (London, 1961), a fine achievement in its time, although its conclusions on the nature of the early Whig and Tory parties are the chief target of the revisionist school;Google Scholar
  13. the early chapters of J. H. Plumb, The Growth of Political Stability in England 1675–1725 (London, 1967);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. R. Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics & Locke’s Two Treatises of Government (Princeton, New Jersey, 1986); and the three introductory studies on the reign of Charles II by K. H. D. Haley, R. M. Bliss and J. Miller, all published in 1985 and listed above in the Bibliography to Chapter 1.Google Scholar
  15. Another essential contribution to the history of the Exclusion Crisis is Tim Harris, London Crowds in the Reign of Charles II: Propaganda and Politics from the Restoration until the Exclusion Crisis (Cambridge, 1987). The Bibliography to Chapter 6 below is, of course, also relevant to the theme of politics.Google Scholar
  16. The reign of James VII & II and the Revolution of 1688 was a focus of attention at the time of the tercentenary of the Revolution in 1988. The best single-volume studies of the Revolution in England are W. A. Speck, Reluctant Revolutionaries: Englishmen and the Revolution of 1688 (Oxford, 1988) and (with a different emphasis)Google Scholar
  17. George Hilton Jones, Convergent Forces: The Immediate Causes of the Revolution of 1688 in England (Ames, Iowa, 1990).Google Scholar
  18. Robert Beddard, A Kingdom without a King: The Journal of the Provisional Government in the Revolution of 1688 (Oxford, 1988) prints an important group of documents with an extended commentary.Google Scholar
  19. J. R. Jones, The Revolution of 1688 in England (London, 1972),Google Scholar
  20. J. R. Western, Monarchy and Revolution: The English State in the 1680s (London, 1972),Google Scholar
  21. John Carswell, The Descent on England: A Study of the English Revolution of 1688 & its European Background (London, 1969)Google Scholar
  22. and D. H. Hosford, Nottingham, Nobles and the North: Aspects of the Revolution of 1688 (Hamden, Connecticut, 1976) retain much value.Google Scholar
  23. Two older books are not without interest: G. M. Trevelyan, The English Revolution, 1688–9 (London, 1938) is a concise distillation of the nineteenth-century Whig interpretation popularized by Trevelyan’s great uncle Macaulay;Google Scholar
  24. while Lucille Pinkham, William III and the Respectable Revolution (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1954) sustains a debatable case for the view that William’s ambition to be King in the British Isles went back much further than his acceptance of the invitation of June 1688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. A number of collections of essays have added a good deal to our understanding of the Revolution. Robert Beddard (ed.), The Revolutions of 1688 (Oxford, 1991);Google Scholar
  26. Jonathan I. Israel (ed.), The Anglo-Dutch Moment: Essays on the Glorious Revolution and its World Impact (Cambridge, 1991);Google Scholar
  27. Eveline Cruickshanks (ed.), By Force or By Default? The Revolution of 1688–1689 (Edinburgh, 1989);Google Scholar
  28. Lois G. Schwoerer (ed.), The Revolution of 1688–1689: Changing Perspectives (Cambridge, 1992);Google Scholar
  29. and J. R. Jones (ed.), Liberty Secured? Britain Before and After 1688 (Stanford, California, 1992), contain between them more than sixty essays on many different aspects of the Revolution and its aftermath.Google Scholar
  30. Some local studies are listed in notes 10 and 94 to this chapter; to these might be added P. J. Norrey, ‘The Restoration Regime in Action: the Relationship between Central and Local Government in Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire’, HJ xxxi (1988); L. K.J. Glassey, ‘The Origins of Political Parties in Late Seventeenth-century Lancashire’, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, cxxxvi (1987 for 1986); and G. C. F. Forster, ‘Government in Provincial England under the Later Stuarts’, TRHS, 5th ser., xxxiii (1983).Google Scholar
  31. Several of the more important politicians active in the Restoration period have been the subject of excellent biographies. Pride of place must go to K. H. D. Haley, The First Earl of Shaftesbury (Oxford, 1968), an exhaustive, subtle analysis of Shaftesbury’s career.Google Scholar
  32. J. P. Kenyon, Robert Spencer, Earl of Sunderland 1641–1702 (London, 1958) brilliantly exploited what was then newly discovered material.Google Scholar
  33. Two biographies of Clarendon by R. W. Harris, Clarendon and the English Revolution (London, 1983)Google Scholar
  34. and R. Ollard, Clarendon and his Friends (London, 1987) are competent studies of a politician who wrote so much, and whose career was so long, that he presents particular difficulties for a biographer.Google Scholar
  35. A. Browning, Thomas Osborne, Earl of Danby and Duke of Leeds, 1632–1712 (3 vols, Glasgow, 1944–51) is still well worth reading on Danby’s period in office as Lord Treasurer in the 1670s.Google Scholar
  36. However, Clifford, Arlington, Rochester and Halifax all await new studies. B. D. Henning (ed.), The History of Parliament: The House of Commons, 1660–1690 (London, 1983) contains a biography of every member of the House of Commons in the period. Those of the principal figures are extended in length, and contain much esoteric information (there are also potted electoral histories of each constituency, plus a methodical and systematic introduction).Google Scholar
  37. The biographies of the Duke of Monmouth are better passed over in silence, but three studies of his rebellion are worth mentioning: Peter Earle, Monmouth’s Rebels: The Road to Sedgemoor (1977);Google Scholar
  38. Robin Clifton, The Last Popular Rebellion: The Western Rising of 1685 (London, 1984);Google Scholar
  39. and David Chandler, Sedgemoor 1685: From Monmouth’s Invasion to the Bloody Assizes (2nd edn, Staplehurst, 1995).Google Scholar
  40. Constitutional history has attracted much less attention than political history in recent years. Howard Nenner, The Right to be King: The Succession to the Crown of England, 1603–1714 (London, 1995), the same author’s By Colour of Law: Legal Culture and Constitutional Politics in England, 1660–1689 (Chicago, 1977),Google Scholar
  41. Michael Landon, The Triumph of the Lawyers: Their Role in English Politics, 1678–1689 (Alabama, 1970),Google Scholar
  42. Clayton Roberts, The Growth of Responsible Government in Stuart England (Cambridge, 1966)Google Scholar
  43. and — just outside our period but still containing much of relevance — Lois G. Schwoerer, The Declaration of Rights, 1689 (Baltimore, 1981) are all admirable on their respective themes,Google Scholar
  44. but the best overview is still G. E. Aylmer, The Struggle for the Constitution, 1603–1689 (London, 1963; 2nd edn 1968),Google Scholar
  45. while Mark A. Thomson, A Constitutional History of England, 1642–1801 (London, 1938) is also helpful on particular points despite its age.Google Scholar
  46. The best short introduction to government finance is Henry Roseveare, The Financial Revolution 1660–1760 (Seminar Studies in History, London, 1991).Google Scholar
  47. C. D. Chandaman, The English Public Revenue, 1660–1688 (Oxford, 1975) is a massive scholarly achievement, although it is not for the faint-hearted.Google Scholar
  48. Stephen B. Baxter, The Development of the Treasury, 1660–1702 (London, 1957)Google Scholar
  49. and H. Roseveare, The Treasury, 1660–1870: The Foundations of Control (London, 1973) both deal more with the Treasury as an administrative institution than with finance.Google Scholar
  50. Christopher Clay, Public Finance and Private Wealth: The Career of Sir Stephen Fox, 1627–1716 (Oxford, 1978) is both a biography of Fox and an analysis of the methods by which he rose to wealth through a combination of private speculation and public service.Google Scholar
  51. Much important work on the political, administrative and financial history of the period has appeared in the form of articles in journals. It is impossible to give more than a selection here, but the following are all relevant and interesting in the treatment of their different subjects: J. Miller, ‘Charles II and his Parliaments’, TRHS, 5th ser., xxxii (1982); J. Miller, ‘The Crown and the Borough Charters in the Reign of Charles II’, EHR, c (1985); J. C. Sainty, ‘A Reform in the Tenure of Offices during the reign of Charles II’, BIHR, xli (1967); R. Willman, ‘The Origins of “Whig” and “Tory” in English Political Language’, HJ, xvii (1974); J. R. Jones, ‘James II’s Whig Collaborators’, HJ, iii (1960); H. Horwitz, ‘Protestant Reconciliation in the Exclusion Crisis’, JEH, xv (1964); J. Miller, ‘The Potential for Absolutism in Later Stuart England’, History, lxix (1984); J. Childs, ‘1688’, History, lxxiii (1988); and W. A. Speck, ‘The Orangist Conspiracy against James II’, HJ, xxx (1987).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© L. K. J. Glassey 1997

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  • Lionel K. J. Glassey

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