Lecture 2: The Paradoxy of the 18th Century

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11 Apr 2012
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Lecture 2: The Paradoxy of the 18th Century
Professor Brian Cowan
Date: September 7, 2011
The Long 18th Century
1660-1832
- the eighteenth century begins in 1660: the 18th century begins halfway through the
17th century
- alternatively 1688, or the Hanoverian succession of 1714
- periodization: time periods look different depending on how we classify them; when
does this session begin and end? "fun to argue about"
- 1660 the date of the restoration of the monarchy (Charles II)
- revolutions of 1640-1660 haunts the rest of the 18th c.
- tried to go back to the way things were before the civil wars; people had enough of the
bloodshed
- the paradox: restoration can never fully work, because the trauma of the last 20 years
remains
- another paradox: Britain is the first modern society, but still one of the most traditional
- at the beginning of the century, the country was a madhouse to the other European
nations
- the breakdown sets up a system that is trying to adapt itself and not go back to the cri-
sis years
- no relapse into regicide and civil war: instead of revolution, reform is received
- reform becomes the new theme of the long 18th century
- scarred by experience of civil war and revolution, but never relapses in spite of some
sketchy times
- 1649: regicide of King Charles I: Parliament passes a sentence and carries it out on
January 30; remembered throughout the century; becomes a national day of mourning
with sermons and reminders of the national sin of regicide that took place - this contin-
ues throughout the century
- monarchy in 1660 looks like a strong state; emerged from war in a highly militarized
state, and raises a monetary system to support itself
- state revenue is used to fund armies usually: as a consequence of constant warfare
the armies are highly trained and awesome; when it started everyone was an amateur;
now the armies are at the service of the restored monarchy
- the fear of another revolution kept the ruling elite together; sovereign power had been
the Westminster Parliament; returned to the monarchy, but still has a Parliamentary
election immediately
- monarchy then rules in conjunction with Parliament; new source of conflict: who has
what power?
- processes of restoration and reform when hand in hand
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