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Assess the impact of the 1688 Revolution on British government and society.

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Introduction

Anna Loughran., Hertford. 20.10.03 Assess the impact of the 1688 Revolution on British government and society. It is not so much the events of 1688 that constitute a revolution as the subsequent changes in the constitution that show a transformation in the nature and ideology of government. There was no internal uprising, no civil war and most importantly, the succession of William of Orange and his wife Mary to the English throne was authorised by a Convention, acting in lieu of parliament in the absence of King James II. Indeed it could be argued that this was not a revolution at all, if James' departure is to be interpreted as his abdication. Contemporaries, keen to replace the unpopular, Catholic monarch with a man who was seen as a deliverer from popery and slavery, reasoned as such. In actual fact James never did renounce his claim to the throne. Fleeing London in the dead of night, he took with him The Great Seal, traditionally held by the monarch and dropped it in the Thames and he burnt the writs that were to call anew parliament. He would later attempt to recapture his crown, rallying support in Ireland to prepare for an invasion that was to fail. But whether or not this dynastic change, made by those who, in theory, did not have the authority to do so, is enough to deserve the title revolution, what cannot be denied is that this marks the end of the era of the absolute monarch. ...read more.

Middle

Parliament had the authority to oversee all public expenditure and so the monarch would always be dependant on them. Changes to the structure of government took effect gradually during the years following the revolution, but from the start the role of parliament was augmented, which initiated subsequent developments. They met for much longer sessions than before 1688, enabling a great deal more legislation to be passed, and allowing for Bills to be more thoroughly debated. Much of the legislation passed was still local or occasional in essence, such as permission to build a workhouse, but although this could be viewed as undermining the revolutionary nature of parliament's more prominent role, the fact that MPs were more available to take action on their electorate's specific grievances, helped to ease the frictions between local and executive power as the nation's political make-up was evolving. Although from a modern perspective these changes are viewed as progressing towards a more rational system of government, during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, people were often concerned about social stability which they believed was at risk with so much legal development. It was a commonly held view that life should be stable and predictable. People wanted to feel sure of their position, their income and their king and government. In an era where the poor always risked slipping into poverty after a bad harvest, increasing involvement in foreign warfare and frequent ...read more.

Conclusion

He faced a Jacobite uprising within the year, but his reign is largely characterised as a time of peace and relative stability after the turbulent post-revolutionary years. The Glorious Revolution had seemed on the surface to be swift, decisive and painless, yet the principals of change that as Burke claimed justified it as a revolution took years to really take shape. By the time of King George the role of monarch had been dramatically reviewed, no longer seen as a ruler from God, but as a figure head for a nation governed by a system of parliament, which relied on the mutual dependency of the two houses and the executive to abide by a sense of appropriate behaviour. Queen Anne was the last to use the Royal veto, something much exploited by the monarchs before 1688, the workings of parliament and the Privy Council had become more regular and thorough and a system of party politics had developed. The characters of William, Anne and George, who all failed to immerse themselves in domestic affaires and the extraordinary calibre of ministers at work during this time, perhaps eased the transition but it still remains that, while the revolution of 1688 had a profound and lasting impact on British society and government, the relationship worked both ways. The practical workings of British society and government were what moulded the developments after the revolution, developments that justified the glorious revolution to be called as such. ...read more.

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