Rethinking the English Revolution of 1649

Fitzgibbons, Jonathan (2017) Rethinking the English Revolution of 1649. Historical Journal, 60 (4). pp. 889-914. ISSN 0018-246X

Full content URL: http://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X1600042X

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Rethinking the English Revolution of 1649
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Abstract

Despite the dramatic events of the trial and execution of Charles I in the winter of 1649, the period that followed tends to be characterized as one of constitutional inertia or backsliding rather than revolution. The regicide, it is argued, was not the product of deep-felt republican feeling but a matter of necessity and expediency; by extension the kingless Commonwealth regime established after the king's death was ‘regarded from the start as a stop-gap, a mere expedient, never an experiment’; it was 'a government which, much of the time, did not know whether it was coming or going’. The constitutional changes were an unforeseen consequence of the regicide: they were ‘improvised, confused, and at moments panic-stricken’. Few believed the trial and execution of the king would lead to the abolition of kingship. Besides hints of backroom dealings to put one of Charles’ sons on the throne, the dilatoriness in establishing a kingless government after the regicide shows there was no enthusiasm for republican rule in England. The ‘fact’ that after the king’s execution ‘it took the Commons a week even to ask itself whether or not kingship should be abolished indicates the limits of republican feeling at this time. ’Rather, kingly government was abandoned with much regret and only as a last resort. While the resolution for abolishing kingship on 7 February 1649 was testimony to the ‘revolutionary daring of some rumpers’ it owed ‘much more to the absence of a plausible alternative policy’. Against their better judgement the majority of those at Westminster sleepwalked their way into kingless rule. It seems that from the moment the decision was taken to abolish kingship the restoration of monarchy was a matter of when not if.

Keywords:History
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V142 Modern History 1600-1699
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
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ID Code:26879
Deposited On:30 Mar 2017 14:51

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