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Author: IPE


30th January 1649: public execution of Charles 1st – “the man of blood” – for high treason in Whitehall, London. English Civil War as struggle between rival paths to modernity: Catholic absolute monarchy (France) or Protestant commercial republic (Netherlands).

The Levellers and the 1647 Putney Debates: male suffrage; parliamentary democracy, political rights; and religious toleration. Oliver Cromwell as republican monarch 1649-53: liberalism at home and imperialism overseas. The consolidation of the British Empire: conquests of Scotland 1650-1; Ireland 1649-50; and Jamaica 1655 -> victory in the 1st Anglo-Dutch War 1652-54.

The 1688 Glorious Revolution: the crowned republic. Liberal politics: the prime minister, the Whig oligarchy and 1689 Bill of Rights. Liberal economics: the foundation of Lloyds in 1688 and the Bank of England in 1694. Liberal culture: Isaac Newton; the Royal Society; and freemasonry.

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. (1651). John Locke, Two Treatises on Government, (1689). David Hume, The History of England. (1754).

The two models of British imperialism: Ireland and Jamaica. The Cromwellian Settlement in Ireland: dispossession of indigenous population -> cheap land for English farmers. Catholic land ownership falls from 2/3 to less than 1/5 in 17th century Ireland. The Cromwellian Settlement in Jamaica: dispossession of indigenous population -> cheap land for slave plantations. British colonies in America: North = Irish model and South = Jamaican model. King Philip’s War 1675-6: ethnic cleansing of New England.

Britain rules the waves: the Royal Navy secured monopoly over the slave trade; Caribbean and American colonies produced sugar, tobacco, coffee and cotton; London acted as financial and commercial hub of Atlantic economy. 18th century London was largest city in most urban country in the world. Slavery in colonies = liberalism in England: free speech; religious toleration; and public sphere.

The development of underdevelopment: imperialism in the South as the precondition of the industrial revolution in the North. Colonial profits created rapid economic growth and technological innovation in Europe. Caribbean plantation owners funded James Watt’s invention of the steam engine.

Andre Gundar Frank, Sociology of Development and Underdevelopment of Sociology, (1971). Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, (1972)

The 1756-63 Seven Years’ War = 1st world war (Winston Churchill). Prussia v. Austria fighting for control of Silesia -> British v. French struggling for global dominance. British propaganda = Protestantism and liberalism against Catholicism and mercantilism. The two key British victories: the 1757 Battle of Plassey in South Asia and the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham in North America.

The irony of history: victory over France leads to fall of 1st British empire. 1775-83 American Revolutionary War: “no taxation without representation”. Liberalism in England -> independence in America. Tom Paine, Common Sense. (1776) Thomas Jefferson, The American Declaration of Independence. (1776) “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” = minimal government, the rule of law and laissez-faire economics. The other irony of history: Jefferson was a slave owner. Freedom for white folks = slavery for black people. John Miller, The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery, (1977).

1789 French Revolution -> 1806 Continental System: blockade of British goods from other European markets. Royal Navy & British bribes v. Grande Armée & French terror. 1805 Battle of Trafalgar is more decisive than Battle of Austerlitz. 1808 invasion of Spain and 1812 invasion of Russia -> overthrow of Napoléon in 1814-5. Simón Bolívar and 1813-25 Latin American Wars of Independence. Final triumph of “imperialism of free trade” over military mercantilism.

British Abolitionism: slave rebellions; liberal economics; Christian morality; Napoleonic wars; and anti-Americanism. The 1807 Slave Trade Act -> 1833 Slavery Abolition Act. Royal Navy: protector to opponent of Atlantic slave trade. Compensation for slave-owners not slaves.

The white colonies: Canada; Australia; and New Zealand. Conquest -> settlement -> self-rule within British empire. Economic dependence limited political independence. Colonies exported agricultural products and raw materials in exchange for industrial goods from British factories.

The British empire as epitome of modernity for rest of world. Economic hegemony: the Gold Standard; the City of London; Manchester cotton factories; 1851 Great Exhibition. Cultural hegemony: English language; Shakespeare; the novel; common law; the suit; Darwinism and football.

Bill Warren, Imperialism: pioneer of capitalism. (1980)

“Whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that [social] revolution.” Karl Marx, ‘British Rule in India’. (1853)

The 2nd British empire = East India Company 1660-1858. Trading monopoly -> imperial power. Importing Indian cotton -> exporting British cotton. Industrialisation in England = deindustrialisation of India. The conquest of Bengal and Mysore: 1757 victory at Plassey -> defeat of Tipu Sultan in 1799. Profits from trade -> profits from taxation. East India Company = private colonial power. Bribery and corruption of British politicians prevented parliamentary oversight. Desire for money and glory led to creeping colonisation. British cartoon on 1843 conquest of Sindh: ‘Peccavi’. 1857 Sepoy Revolt = 1st Indian War of Independence. 1858: abolition of East India Company -> creation of British Raj. Collapse of “imperialism of free trade” -> imposition of direct political rule. Acquiring colonies created markets for British firms. Financial investments overseas paid for imports of foreign goods and services.

The British empire = “the empire upon which the sun never sets.” The largest empire in human history: ¼ of global population and ¼ of world’s surface area. The Scramble for Africa: 1882 conquest of Egypt -> 1896-8 occupation of Sudan -> 1880-1 1st Boer War -> 1889-1902 2nd Boer War -> 1901 control over Nigeria. Indian model of British imperialism: white elite; institutionalised racism; local landlord allies; military force; professional civil service; economic protectionism; exploitation of raw materials; heavy taxation of the peasantry; rule of law; puritan morality; team sports; cultural philistinism. Victoria the Queen-Empress as icon of British empire; the Home Counties as the rentiers of the world; and the cult of the English gentlemen.

J.A. Hobson, Imperialism. (1902) Great Britain: 50% of global industry -> 50% of global finance. World system: single global market -> rival imperial powers.

H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, (1898): Martians do to the English what the English had done to the rest of the world. The human cost of the Atlantic slave trade (3 million) and the Irish famine (1 million dead).

August 1914: the arrival of the Time of Troubles which would lead to the birth of a new Universal State.

Within this MySpace version of the electronic agora, cybernetic communism was mainstream and unexceptional. What had once been a revolutionary dream was now an enjoyable part of everyday life.