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Definition of Revolution and Results of Investigation

Principal works on the subject of "the English revolution":

1. Hume, David, "The History of England", XVIII century

2. Guizot, Francois, "History of the English Revolution"

3. Marx, Engels, “A review of F. Guizot’s 1850 pamphlet ‘Why did the revolution in England succeed?’ ”, 1850

4. Bernstein, Edward, "Social movement in England in XVII century", 1899

5. G. M. Trevelyan, “Illustrated English Social History”

6. A.L. Morton, “A People’s History of England”

7. Barg, M., "The Great English Revolution in Portraits of its Leaders", Moscow 1991

8. Movie "Cromwell", 1970

* * *

1. As an investigator defines the subject of investigation, so he defines its outcome. Here is a thought of Max Planck (1858-1947), a founder of quantum theory: "If one is to ask which external sign can best characterize level of development of science, I can not point to a better sign than the method by which a science defines its basic concepts and subdivides its various regions. Clarity of definitions and method of investigating the material often contain, in a hidden form, the last and most mature results of investigation". Thus, the initial concept of "what is the subject" and the last results of investigation are mutually related. The wider we define a subject, the more modern and alive it becomes. 


2. What is "the English revolution"?

A) It seems to me that David Hume (1711-1776) started his voluminous "History of England" as a history of the English revolution. He writes: "the convulsions of a civilized state usually compose the most instructive and most interesting part of its history". However, the logic of events made him go back in time and start his "History" with invasion of England by Julius Caesar in I century B.C. "History of England" covers time period from Julius Caesar's invasion to 1688.

Hume was living at the time when England was preparing for the Industrial revolution. Thus, he reports the results of the English revolution as following: 1) in 1689 a convention was signed according to which the rights of the king were very limited; 2) a greater possibility of freedom appears in England than in any other country: “we, in this island, have ever since enjoyed, if not the best system of government, at least the most entire system of liberty, that ever was known amongst mankind”. 3) The party of the Whigs, i.e. the party of the large bourgeoisie, seizes the control of the government. 4) New industries are founded and the number of sea-faring vessels greatly increases, leading to increase in wealth of the English nation: “we learn from Sir Josiah Child, that in 1688 there were on the Change more men worth 10 000 pounds than there were in 1650 worth a thousand; that 500 pounds with a daughter was, in the latter period, deemed a larger portion than 2000 in the former, that gentlewomen, in those earlier times, thought themselves well cloathed in a serge [woolen] gown, which a chambermaid would, in 1688, be ashamed to be seen in; and that, besides the great increase of rich cloaths, plate, jewels, and household furniture, coaches were in that time augmented a hundred fold.”

Hume not only gives political events, but also discusses material culture and various aspects of the English literature. Thus, Hume approaches to grasping dialectical logic of events.

B) Guizot (1787-1874) defines the English revolution from beginning of rule of Charles I, in 1625, up to the second overthrow of the Stuarts in 1688. Hence, results of the revolution, for Guizot, are: 1) the royal power can no longer exist without the Parliament; 2) the power shifts from the “House of Lords” to the "House of Commons"; 3) Protestantism becomes the dominant religion in England.

This is a narrower definition of revolution than Hume’s, both in time scale and in the range of results.

C) A translator of Guizot, 1868, thinks that the English revolution consists of 4 parts: 1) rule of Charles I and his struggle with "the Long Parliament"; 2) republic headed by Cromwell; 3) Restoration of Stuarts; 4) final overthrow of Stuarts and beginning of reign of William of Orange, in 1688.

D) Another writer on the English revolution, M. Barg, writes that the English revolution consisted of 4 stages: 1) constitutional, "peaceful" stage, from 3 November 1640 to 22 August 1642; 2) the first civil war, 1642-1646; 3) deepening democratic transformation of the revolution, 1646-49; 4) the republic of the Independents, 1649-1653.

Thus, as opposed to the translator of Guizot, the Soviet historian: 1) doesn't think that Restoration is an integral part of the revolution; 2) hence, doesn't consider the eventual overthrow of Stuarts as a necessary stage in the revolution.

However, it is important to notice that a revolution includes a "peaceful" stage, when the two warring parties try to achieve "political death" of its nemesis through relatively peaceful means, such as dismissal of Parliament, impeachment, or simply firing an opponent from his job. Only when contradictions accumulate, and it is not possible to solve them through peaceful means, both parties resort to violent methods. This allows us to widen our conception of revolution; it must include a preliminary "peaceful" stage, later to be followed by a violent stage. The last two stages of a revolution are Restoration, followed by an overthrow of the Restoration regime.


I. Defining the subject of investigation also predetermines the results of investigation.

II. If we define revolution in a limited way, its achievements are non-existent. They become obvious only if we look at the wider picture.

III. Principal stages of a political revolution are:

1. Peaceful – class struggle by “parliamentary” means, accumulation of contradictions;

2. Violent – the civil war, overthrow of the old social order, a new army and a new state emerging;

3. Authoritarian – a centrist dictatorship;

4. Restoration – an attempt to restore the old social order that existed prior to the violent struggle;

5. Overthrow of the Restoration regime.

6. A new version of Industrial revolution.

IV. However, the concept of a "revolution" is not confined to political events only, but includes the development of the material and intellectual culture.

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