1659: The Crisis of the Commonwealth

1659: The Crisis of the Commonwealth

Ruth E. Mayers


Royal Historical Society



A review of the evidence for the popularity of the revival of the Commonwealth and the reasons for its ultimate failure.
1659 is one of the most significant years in British history. The return of the remnant of the Long Parliament signalled the reversal of the conservative tendencies of the Protectorate, and the revival of the Commonwealth. Denounced by its enemies as anarchical, the 'Rump Parliament' was nonetheless welcomed by many contemporaries, hoping for a lasting republic. Too often these hopes have been ignored by historians and the Republic dismissed as a chaotic epilogue to the Protectorate, or the prelude to an inevitable Restoration, an approach that neglects considerable evidence for the strength of the regime.
In a comprehensive examination of the restored Commonwealth, Dr Mayers redresses that imbalance. She explores in turn the sources of the Republic's adverse reputation, Parliament's domestic priorities, internal dynamics, and relations with the Army, the City of London, and the English and Welsh provinces, as well as foreign policy, the challenge of ruling Scotland, Ireland and the colonies, and the sophisticated republican endeavour to imagine the future constitution and project a positive political identity through ceremonial, iconography and the print debates. She shows that a functioning, effective regime had been established which attracted support from soldiers and civilians throughout the land for whom republicanism of various kinds remained a vital energising force. She concludes with an investigation of the autumn crisis and its aftermath, showing that Parliament's second expulsion left irreconcilable divisions among its supporters which prevented the establishment of an alternative authority.

RUTH E. MAYERS is Assistant Professor of History at Geneva College, Pennsylvania. She did her first degree at Somerville College, Oxford, and the doctoral research upon which much of the book is based at Washington Univeristy, St Louis. She is now working on a new biography of republican statesman Sir Henry Vane.


August 2004
1 black and white illustrations
318 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Royal Historical Society Studies in History New Series
ISBN: 9780861932689
Format: Hardback
Royal Historical Society
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A challenging and important book, which compels a reconsideration of the resurrected Rump. THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
An enterprising revision of the prevailing historiography of the revised Commonwealth of 1659-60. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

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