27 April 2008

Social Movements: Revolution

By Christine Koehler

Nothing says social change quite like revolution--not the social revolutions of the 1960s, but the kind mired in bloodshed and death. Revolution is from the Latin revolutio meaning a turnaround. A quick Wikipedia search shows a huge list of revolutions and rebellions through the ages. Pretty cool to look through.

England during the 1600s saw two major revolutions, one bloody and one not so much. The English Civil war was waged between Parliament (ruled by Cromwell) and King Charles I. Parliament and Cromwell were extremely conservative in thought and deed--it was considered a better alternative to outright military dictatorship--so the nobility tolerated it. Barely.

It was during this time that theatre was disbanded, and the roll of the church enjoyed a resurgence. Ironically enough, the Act of Uniformity which passed in 1559 declaring only the Church of England the only English church was dissolved. Other religions could practice so long as they paid tithes to the national church, now known as Presbyterian.

Cromwell also 'allowed' Jews to return to England. Seeing how they'd contributed to the economic superiority of Holland, he wished the same for his depressed country. Since he tolerated other religions, this seemed to fall in that purview.

The second revolution was The Glorious Revolution, or Revolution of 1688, that overthrew Catholic James II. While not entirely bloodless, it was less so than other rebellions, revolutions, and outright wars fought on the island.

James dismissed Protestant clergy, members of Parliament, and heads of office. He tried and hanged scores who protested his 'papish ways', and yet the country tolerated it so long as the throne passed to his Protestant daughter, Mary. And then he fathered a son. Things looked grim for the Protestant nation.

Of course he was also a total autocrat. In this time of change, that wasn't to be tolerated any more than his religion. On June 30, 1688, a group of Protestant nobles, known as the Immortal Seven, invited the Prince of Orange to come to England with an army. By September, it was clear William sought to invade. Believing that his own army would be adequate, James refused the assistance of Louis XIV. When William landed, many Protestants defected. James' army was in ruin.

James didn't last three full years on the throne.

Never again would Catholicism regain its major foothold in England, and never again would a monarch hold absolute power. In fact, Catholics were denied the right to vote and sit in Parliament for over 100 years. They were also denied commissions and the monarch was forbidden to be Catholic or marry a Catholic, thus ensuring the Protestant succession.

To be fair, my first exposure to this last revolution was a brief intro in Errol Flynn's Captain Blood.

The Open Door
The Glorious Revolution Org
Oliver Cromwell Org