The age of revolution

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The 17th century was a period of revolution in England. After the death of Queen Elizabeth the crown passed to James I. In 1605 there was the gunpowder plot, a Roman Catholic attempt to blow up the Parliament and the king himself. From 1620 many people emigrated to the New Continent. Most of the emigrants were looking for employment and a better life, or were escaping from religious persecution. A good number, however, were transported because they were criminals or vagrants. In 1625 Charles I became king. In 1642 conflict with the Parliament culminated in a Civil War. In 1649 there was the execution of Charles I and England was ruled as a republic, the Commonwealth, under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. He imposed a strict way of life, but people soon grew tired of the austerity and gravity of Puritanism. In 1660 the monarchy was restored under Charles II and the atmosphere changed. Parliament was very active and, political parties were born in Britain for the first time. 1665 was a year of a great plague and in 1666 there was a great fire in London which destroyed most of the city. In 1685 James II became king. In 1689 the Toleration Act put an end to religious quarrelling and the power of Parliament was sanctioned by the Bill of Rights. This important document stated that the king ruled not by “Divine Rights” but by consent of Parliament as representative of the country. In 1701 it was followed by the Act of Settlement which barred Roman Catholics from the throne. There was the growing prosperity of the middle classes, that is the tradesmen and the landowning farmers. There was a continuation of the witch hunt and, at the same time, there was also interesting in scientific thinking. Charles II, unlike his grandfather, did not believe in witches but he supported science, and founded the Royal Society. Its members included Boyle the founder of modern chemistry, Hooke the discoverer of engineering laws, Halley the perfecter of the microscope (he observed the comet that bears his name), Wren who, after 1666, rebuild the medieval churches in the modern style, Newton who wrote Principia, Pope who wrote poems and Pepys who wrote an important diary. There were new habits in town life, such as visiting the coffee houses. Coffee was a new drink, and rich men licked to meet at the coffee houses where they could have discussions. Women gathered at home to drink tea, which became very popular with the higher classes. The lower classes visited drinking house, which became centres of popular culture. In this period fell the old ideals of humanism and chivalry.
The terrible plague which raged in Northern Italy (particularly Milan) in 1630 and in London in 1665 is described by Alessandro Manzoni in his The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi) and by Daniel Defoe in A journal of the Plague Year. The recreation of an historical event is made convincing by the wealth of details and by the autobiographical tone of the first person narration. The author imagines that the description is given by a humble tradesman.
From the middle of the 16th century the Puritan was people characterized by great religious and moral earnestness, who wanted a purer church, (purified from popish’ rituals and vestments). The preaching was based only on the Bible and the bishops’ power was abolished. The Puritans were followers of Calvin and they interpreted material success and prosperity as signal evidence of divine grace: a successful man was certainly predestined for salvation. In the 17th century the Puritans represented the new way of life: they were mainly from the emerging middle class of town tradesmen who had a large share in the government. The old, conservative element was the ex-feudal landowners who supported the king. This division culminated in the Civil War, which saw, for a short period, the triumph of the Puritans. They imposed a very rigid, austere way of life: no pleasure, no amusement, the theatres were closed and acting forbidden. The Bible was the source of all rule. Puritans met stern opposition in their country. This is why a group of them decided to migrated to America (the Piligrim Fathers).
When James I became king of England warned the Puritans that they must accepted his ideas on religion. His bishop putting the Puritans in prison. A small group of them left England, to escape the persecution, and went to Holland (the only country in Europe whose government allowed religion freedom at this time). They decided to go to America. They returned in England and in 1620 they left by an old ship, the Mayflower. They landed in Massachusetts. The Pilgrims’ chances of surviving were not high for cold and scarcity of food. They learned how to fish and hunt and friendly Amerindians gave them seed corn and showed them how to plant it. Thanksgiving was first celebration in 1621 by the Pilgrim Father. Today, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. The dinner menu is roast turkey, corn dishes and pumpkin pie. Other English Puritans followed the Pilgrims of America. These people left England to escape the rule of a new king, Charles I. the ideas of the Massachusetts Puritans had lasting influence on America society. A new colony was called Rhode Island which promised its citizens complete religious freedom and separation of church and state. By the end of the seventeenth century a string of English colonies stretched along the east cost of North America. Under a charter from the English king, Charles II, Penn became the proprietor of Pennsylvania. Penn promised a religious freedom and refused to take part in wars. They became very unpopular with English government. From Ireland and Germany came people. The Germans were known as the Pennsylvania Dutch (because most north Europeans called Dutch). New York had previously called New Amsterdam. The last English colony to be founded in North America was Georgia in 1733.