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SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CHANGE IN THE LATER SEVENTEENTH CENTURY, PART III

Overseas expansion and the imperial state

The English Revolution and the country’s economic transformation

1. While capitalist agriculture was the fundamental condition for the growth of towns, cities, trade, and manufacturing in England, the possibilities contained in such capitalist transformation were not fully realized until the English Revolution of the mid-seventeenth century.

2. More specifically, the policies of the English Commonwealth (c. 1649-1653) transformed the country’s political economy – that is, the relationship between the state and the economic organization of society – in favor of commercial and manufacturing development at home as well as overseas commercial and colonial expansion.

The English Revolution and the country’s economic transformation, continued

3. Before 1640, the English state was not committed to the development of commerce, manufacturing, and overseas expansion.

4. The Stuart monarchy of James I and Charles I extracted short-term revenues from commercial and overseas expansion in order to fund its initiatives and projects.

5. During the English Civil Wars and Revolution, the policies and practices of the state were no longer exclusively determined by landed elites. Under the Commonwealth regime, new social groups, consisting largely of overseas merchants and entrepreneurs, were involved in planning and implementing state policy. These groups brought new ideas and schemes, drawn from their experiences in overseas enterprise and commercial competition, to bear in the affairs of state.

6. Between 1649 and 1653, the English state became committed to commercial, manufacturing, and overseas expansion.

The English Revolution and the country’s economic transformation, continued

7. New policies committed the state to unlimited commercial and overseas expansion: the Navigation Act of 1651 and the additional navigation laws; the First Anglo-Dutch War; the abolition of chartered monopolies in favor of free-trade zones; the creation of a sizeable standing navy; and the building of a naval-industrial complex.

8. Rather than extracting short-term revenues from commercial and overseas economic development as James I and Charles I had done, the English Commonwealth was committed to raising long-term revenues on the basis of ever-expanding commercial and overseas economic activity. The state sought to expand economic activity in order to increase its tax revenues, instead of arbitrarily raising taxes regardless of the condition of the economy.

The title page of the Navigation Act of 1651

The title page of the Navigation Act of 1651

The creation and continuation of England’s imperial state

1. During the Commonwealth period, the English state was fundamentally committed to overseas expansion. Between 1649 and 1653, the imperial state was born.

2. After the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660, the English government continued to support many of the commercial and overseas policies and practices put in place under the Commonwealth. For example, the Navigation Act and the other navigation laws were renewed in the early 1660s, and Charles II’s younger brother – James, Duke of York – was made Lord High Admiral and placed in charge of building a larger standing navy. English overseas expansion continued throughout the Restoration period. The imperial state was here to stay.

England’s overseas expansion by 1700:

the colonies in North America

England’s overseas expansion by 1700: the colonies in North America

England’s overseas expansion by 1700:

the plantations in the West Indies

England’s overseas expansion by 1700: the plantations in the West Indies

England’s overseas expansion by 1700: African slavery and the rise of the Atlantic trading system

England’s overseas expansion by 1700: African slavery and the rise of the Atlantic trading system

England’s overseas expansion by 1700:

the trading world of Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the English East India Company

England’s overseas expansion by 1700: the trading world of Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the English