History (XVII-XVIII secolo)

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Data:03.10.2005
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When Charles I succeeded his father James I in 1625, the question as to who, between King and Parliament, should hold the control of power was still unsettled. The king became so involved in the war with Spain and in expeditions to France that Parliament produced the Petition of Rights which denied the king the right to impose taxes without Parliament’s consent and to imprison a freeman without trial. Charles dissolved the Parliament and, for some years, governed without it. In 1640 the King had to summon Parliament again in order to obtain money to suppress a religious rebellion in Scotland. The Parliament granted the money but also deleted the prerogative which had permitted the King to rule without Parliament. When a rebellion exploded in Catholic Ireland, king was asked to give up the command of the army. He refused and the Civil War broke out in 1642: the forces were divided into Royalists or Cavaliers and Roundheads, the supporters of Parliament. A member of Parliament, Oliver Cromwell, proved a brilliant leader in raising and training cavalry composed of puritan men. With the reorganization of the Army, Parliament acquired advantage on the Stuart monarchy: the King was captured, tried and legally murdered. Monarchy was abolished and the country was ruled as a republic, known by the name of Commonwealth. Cromwell tried to rule as a constitutional statesman but soon the Parliament was dissolved and he became a sort of dictator. When he died his son proved unable to success the father and Charles II, Charles I’son was called back from France where he was fled during Cromwell’s govern. Charles II was a very popular King and his reign marked the end of an age of fanaticism. In 1673 Parliament forced Charles II to accept a Test Act which prevented any Catholic from holding public office. Fear of Charles’s interest in Catholic Church resulted in the first political parties in Britain, the Whig and the Tories. The firsts thought they had the right to remove the King if it was proved he had misgoverned his people. When became King the Catholic James, the English were faced with the view of a line of Catholic royals. Leaders of both Whig and Tories invited William of Orange, King’s son-in-law, to come over with an army. James was forced to flee and William II became King. This was the so called Glorious revolution, because no blood was shed, apart from the Scottish blood. In 1689 the Bill of Rights reduces the powers of the King.
When William died, he was succeeded by Anne Stuart. Her reign was marked by England’s intervention in the war of the Spanish Succession against France. Britain won and obtained from Spain the monopoly of the slave trade with South America. In the meanwhile Scotland joined England. When the last Stuart died, became King George of Hanover, who could speak no English. In this period the colonial empire grew and the power of Parliament, controlled by Whigs, increased. Under George I and his successor George II there were two Jacobite rebellions which attempted to put on the throne James’s II descent. Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister, managed to keep peace with Europe until the renewal of war with Spain and the war of the Austrian Succession. When he died, William Pitt replaced him: his mercantilist policy led to a new way of living and to formation of the Middle Class. In 1756 Britain found an ally in Prussia against Spain, Austria, Russia and France: the Seven Years’ War began. The war brought under British control a great part of India and of Quebec. During the war, George II died and became King George III. He dismissed the Prime Minister and imposed duties in the colonies of North America provoking their rebellion. The taxes were deleted except the duty on tea: three years later some colonist threw a cargo of British tea into the sea at Boston Harbour (Boston Tea Party). In 1775, at Lexington, the American War of Independence began. On 4th July 1776 the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, was signed. The war finished with the victory of colonialists, led by George Washington who became the first president of the United States of America.

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