17th century England was troubled by the same kinds of problems as the rest of Europe--political , economic, and social problems made worse by religious division. The English parliament, which should have been an instrument for peaceful change, often only made things worse. But surprisingly enough, by the end of the 17th century the English found a lasting solution to the problems that confronted them.
I. English problems
A. Economic--same as confronted rest of Europe, particular problem with insufficient royal revenue to meet new demands. Also, changes in agriculture (enclosure) created problems.
B. Social--again same, rising middle class/falling nobles. Large number of former farm-types in the cities.
C. Political (overseas enemies/hostile Scotland aggravating problem)
D. Religious division particular bad: Henry VIII created very unstable religious situation (Edward/Mary/Elizabeth): Result: Anglican/Catholic/Puritan split.
II. Problems not real bad at beginning of 17th century because England had particularly able ruler, one of finest in their history, Elizabeth I (1558-1603)
A. Elizabeth frugal (read my lips)
B. Good diplomat (use of marriage promise, delay of 1588 Armada)
C. Relgious policy: latitudinarianism
Problem remaining: a successor!! Partially solved by transfer of crown to Stuart monarchs.
III. James I (1603-1625)
A. Good start (economic/Jamestown/Mayflower/Scotland no
threat/ latitudinarian in religion (KJV)
B. Problem: Gunpowder Plot (Please to remember the 5th of November): result: anti-Catholic sent./pressure to join Thirty Years' War
Worse for successor
IV. Charles I (1625-1649)
A. Pressure to help protestants in France/Empire but no money/even worse: impending war with Spain
B. Summoned parliament for tax revenue/instead parliament insists on Petition of Right (decree against arbitrary arrests and imprisonments, arbitrary taxes, etc.)
C. Charles, frustrated, decides to do without parliament, "personal rule" 1629-1640. Collects taxes without parliamentary authorization. Illegal? No, existing laws gave some loopholes. Tax on those not showing up to have title of nobility confirmed. Tax on those not going to church. Result?
D. Further trouble: decided to unite churches of England and Scotland, impose Anglican prayer book on Scots. Mistake!! Scots angry--at same time, rebellion in Ireland. Not enough revenue to deal with problem, so Charles calls parliament--
E. Long Parliament (1640). Parliament agrees to taxes? No--again demands Petition of Right! What to do as King? Charles sends trusted minister (Wentworth) to parliament--and parliament arrests him--and orders him executed! Further, members of parliament sending messages encouraging Scots to rebel!!!
F. Charles sends soldiers to arrest treasonous members of parliament, they had escaped--Charles aggravates London mob which drives him out of London, but Charles can now gather forces and attack--
G. Parliament needs help: army!!! They get it. Key figure: Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell puts together an army of puritans, convinced they are fighting for kingdom of God against forces of darkness. Well disciplined, motivated, defeat Charles forces. Charles captured, parliament in control. But need an executive: Cromwell! Not a King, but Lord Protector.
H. Cromwell goes to parliament with request for money for his soldiers. Parliamentary response: no way!! Cromwell, the Lord Protector, must protect keep England safe--so kicks out members of parliament who won't go along, and eventually rules without much help from parliament at all. England protected from Parliament!
I. England to be kept safe--Charles to go (beheaded in 1649). England protected from King!
J. Irish rebellion brutally put down. England protected from Irish!
K. But most of all English need to be protected from selves--Cromwell institutes series of laws concerned with improving morality. No gambling/ no bear or cock fighting/ adultery severly penalized/ taverns closed/ oaths fined/ theaters closed--but also unquestionably good laws: no capital punishment for minor crimes, debtors freed from prison, corrupt and incompetent school and church officials removed (The "scandalous, ignorant, and insufficient minister and schoolmasters." ) Cromwell a far more absolute ruler than Charles had ever been--though not a king in the full sense. And this in some ways a problem, because the absence of a king created a feeling that something was missing. Cromwell died 1658--uncertain what would happen. Finally decided to go back to Stuart monarchs--Charles son, Charles II on throne.
V. Charles II (1660-1685)
Most English glad to have king again. Glad Puritans were not in control anymore. After 18 years of Puritan austerity, what do you think English do? Party!! And the leading partier?? Charles II. Not moral at all, carried on affair with Nell Gwynn. English didn't care. Not so lucky...
VI. James II (1685-1688)
James most part a good man, far more moral than Charles, but did something unforgiveable--became a Catholic! Ok, had older daughters (Mary and Anne) good protestants, Mary married to one of leading protestant leaders on continent (William of Orange) but--James has son--son heir: time for revolt--but you don't want repetition of Cromwell--have to have replacement. Who? Mary! Parliament invites Mary and William to England, leads to . . .
VII. Glorious Revolution
1. No bloodshed (except Charles nose)
2. Almost by accident, solved problems (king and parliament would work together/limited monarcy--kings recognizing perogatives of parliament. But also rights of people as a whole: Bill of Rights of 1689: document little known to most Americans, but the document that inspires our own Bill of Rights. See English Bill of Rights--1689.