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The Growth of Political Stability, 1675-1725 Paperback – 28 Jul 1977

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Important 28 Sep 2013
By R. Albin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Published decades ago, this short book, an edited set of lectures delivered by Plumb, remains as a basic text for understanding 18th century Britain. Plumb's goal was to explain the transition from the highly contentious and potentially violent politics of late 17th & early 18th century Britain to the stable oligarchy of mid-18th century Britain. This process was accompanied by a considerable narrowing of political life in Britain. One of Plumb's major points is that late 17th & early 18th century Britain was characterized by a relatively large "political nation" and frequent parliamentary elections. By 1750, neither characterized British political life.

Plumb opens with James II's attempts to establish an absolutist state in Britain. Compelled, in part because of his Catholicism, to seek greater royal power without a great deal of support among the "political nation," James' efforts were threatening to much of the gentry and aristocracy that dominated Britain. The foreign led coup that was the Glorious Revolution hardly ended political conflict. It guaranteed Parliament's central role in English political life and inaugurated intense party struggles centered around control of Parliament. Subsequent processes, however, would tame Parliamentary politics and eventually result in a virtual one party state dominated by Walpole's Whigs. These included the growth of the central bureaucracy, already underway under the later Stuarts, a system that allowed both relatively efficient government, particularly tax collection (see John Brewer's outstanding Sinews of Power for a detailed discussion of this phenomenon), and considerable scope for patronage and development of extensive political clientage. At the same time, Plumb describes an electoral arms race in which election costs, which might be accurately described as forms of voter bribery, escalated greatly. The result was system in which strongly favored wealthy Whig aristocrats and their allies. Plumb highlights the role of Robert Walpole in synthesizing the mixture of patronage and electioneering needed to dominate English politics. His Tory rivals suffered from a combination bad leadership but also an intrinsic contradiction; to obtain supremacy they would have had to use these methods but their ideological goals required avoiding this kind of system.

This book is a very useful corrective to prevailing popular impressions of the Glorious Revolution, which are still current in books published in the US, as resulting in a laissez faire, classically liberal state. The actual result, as Plumb shows well, was a strengthened executive, considerable expansion of the professional bureaucracy, and a much narrower "political nation," which Plumb terms a Venetian oligarchy.
America's political debt to Britain 4 Jun 2013
By Greg Deane - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
JH Plumb provides a perspective that explains the divisiveness in Britain that is paradoxical in light of the unity of the colonies, that combined to bring about the American Revolution, and create a permanent. Yet Plumb elucidates that political developments in Britain and the colonies, stemmed from access to similar political philosophies including Liberalism and Republicanism , and an emerging commercially competitive Protestantism.

The seventeenth century was a time of political upheaval in England, following a transformation into a more secular age under Queen Elizabeth I where Shakespeare and Marlowe are just two of many writers who produced works where religion was in the background, but she failed to leave children. The Stuarts who replaced the Tudors returned England to the religious rivalries that resulted in civil war that resulted in a theocratic rump parliament, with a Puritan Protector in the place of an absolute monarch.. As Plumb points out, Charles challenged Parliament militarily and lost, and engineered his own regicide, and at the same time delegitimised Parliament. The Puritans established the only Republic in British history, but a republic that was intended to be ruled Oliver Cromwell's dynasty. His son was unsuccessful and gave way to another generation of Stuarts, Charles II and then James II, a suspected Catholic, reinvigorated the religious hostilities, that were always a subtext in English politics until 1688 when James II was removed by Parliament in the "Glorious Revolution," to be replaced by his daughter, Mary, and her Dutch husband, William of Orange. Divisive religiosity was much diluted so that England achieved a measure of political stability, that has strengthened continuously for 300 years.

J.H. Plumb believes three conditions facilitated the germination of long-term stability: Whigs control of government and a concomitant readiness to identify changing conditions in society; executive control over Parliament which came to appoint its members to the ministry from its majority party within the Westminster system; and parties that shared a a common sense of purpose identity. By the end of the century, the Whig Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, had established a benchmark for a dominant and competent executive, even if this office also had more latitude for abuse of power. Plumb does offer the damning criticism that Walpole created a "swelling financial government complex fat with corruption, complaisant and power-engrossing." But Plumb also allows that such a leviathan anchored England while the party system, based as it was on rotten boroughs, provided ballast to the ship of government that prevents it from capsizing. It also provided a model for the American colonies that transformed it into a permanent Republican model, with the executive outside the parliamentary congress, and replaced the king with a president.
superb 31 Jan 2013
By N. P. Collins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is surely definitive, picking apart, issue by issue, borough by borough, department by department, thw changing role fo the executive and parliament and the trade growth underlying growing stability. Has it been bettered since its publication?
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