POLI 212 Lecture Notes - Bourgeoisie, Geopolitics
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FEBRUARY 10, 2012: Conference
Geographic positioning in British history: fosters a uniquely British identity (not a
European identity) and in the past, prevented them from being invaded→ a
psychological and practical element. They didn’t need to maintain a large standing
army, which meant attention could be shifted from cultivating a strong martial class;
they didn’t have an army to quell rebellion so co-operation with other groups, and
they could build up their navy instead.
General model of political development: largely incremental and relatively stable, as
opposed to France, which had frequently changing regimes over a short period of
Magna Carta (1215) was significant because it was the first attempt by landowners
to put constitutional restrictions on the arbitrary powers of the king. (Provisions
related to inheritance, who would take care of so-and-so’s widow, etc.) It shows a
lot about the attitude towards women in that time period (“authorities were not to
accept the accusation of a woman against a man unless he killed her husband”). It
was an attempt to standardize occupation between landowners and the king and
tried to set limits on the amount of time that these landowners would have to give
over to the King. It was an attempt to assure the prerogatives of the city of London
for commerce. The idea was to facilitate trade in the event of a military conflict
another country. It was the first attempt to try to limit the power of the king and put
him under the rule of law. There is a lot of historiography attached to it→ an
important symbolic step.
Geo-politically: When did the British Empire become the main European overseas
empire? The golden age was during the Victorian era and inaugurated in 1815
(Napoleon is defeated in the battle of Waterloo). Britain conceived itself as an
offshore balancer on the continent.
What did power holders in the UK loosen restrictions on the right to vote? Workers
movements, increasing industrial capital, etc. The very important event that tipped
the scale was World War 1. There was a sense of shared sacrifice after the war, and
there was a sense that everyone should have a say in how the country was
governed. The majority got the vote in 1928.
According to K&K, the first major event for state formation in France is the
revolution in 1789.
Important pillars of the old regime included: the monarchy, the nobility, a massive
population of peasant cultivators, and a small population of city dwelling
bourgeoisie, merchants, etc. It was geared towards providing surplus to regime
institutions, and the major goal of the monarch and the system was to present any
outside or independent source of economic power from developing.
In the late 18th century in France, peasant uprisings occurred.
Trying to form a republican, democratic, liberal state on a peasantry that is
accustomed to the political institutions of the old regime causes barriers: the state
has to first penetrate because there was no national identity.
In the UK, nation formation took a different trajectory: unifying kingdoms (1539-
1707 was the gradual consolidation of England and Wales, and Scotland).
There were certain institutions in the UK that were similar to France, but they
started coming apart over a longer period of time than they did in France.
How do these affect politics in the UK and France today, particularly in relation to
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