Harry T. Dickinson

The Debates on the Rights of Man in Britain: From the Levellers to the Chartists (1640s-1840s)


Language: English
Subject(s): History
Page Range: 11-41
No. of Pages: 31
Keywords: , , , , , , , ,
Summary/Abstract: From the 1640s to the 1840s political thinkers and political activists discussed and struggled for three concepts of freedom: the right of the individual to be free from too much government oppression, the right to play an active role in politics to make the government responsible to the people, and the right to expect the state to help the poor to escape from economic oppression. These debates occurred throughout these two hundred years but this article discusses each in turn. The first struggle, to secure the individual’s possessions, freedom of religion and expression, and the right to resist tyranny by force, was advanced in theory and in practice by John Locke and radical Whigs in the seventeenth century and was the most successful campaign. The second campaign to make the government accountable to the people by giving all men and all women the right to elect the members of the legislature in the Westminster Parliament was advanced successfully in theory by the earlier nineteenth century, but it was not achieved in practice for more than a century after that. The campaign to free the poor from poverty and economic oppression was much debated in theory, especially during the early decades of the Industrial Revolution, but the utopian Socialists who advanced the most radical ideas did not really appreciate how to overcome the poverty and economic oppression of the working classes in a capitalist economy. It took a series of changes well into the later twentieth century before most British workers were lifted out of poverty.
Open access on CEEOL: NO



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The Modern British Constitution: Reformed or Undermined?


Language: English
Subject(s): History
Page Range: 177-197
No. of Pages: 21
Keywords: , , , , , ,
Summary/Abstract: Britain has the oldest constitutional and representative system of government in the world, but it is unusual among modern states in not having a written constitution. From the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 onwards, Britain gradually developed a stable constitution that enshrined the joint sovereignty of the monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, while defending the liberties of the people and making the legislature increasingly responsible to a widening electorate that eventually, by the earlier twentieth century, included all adults, male and female. Until the late twentieth century this constitution enjoyed massive support at home and was greatly admired abroad. Developments over recent decades, however, have posed serious challenges to this long established and well-supported constitution. The most important developments have been the changes made by Britain’s entry into the European Community, the growing concern about the decline in parliament’s authority, the rise of nationalist sentiment in the non-English parts of the United kingdom that have resulted in the devolution of power from the Westminster Parliament to regional legislative bodies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and the widespread desire to democratize the composition of the House of Lords but the absence of any agreement how to do this. Many changes have been made and others contemplated but not achieved over recent decades. It is still far from clear, however, whether these changes have improved or undermined a constitution that has served Britain so well over the previous three centuries.
Open access on CEEOL: NO



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Why did the American Revolution not spread to Ireland?


Language: English
Subject(s): History
Page Range: 155-180
No. of Pages: 26
Keywords: , , , , , , , , ,
Summary/Abstract: In the later eighteenth century the Anglo-Irish settlers in Ireland, a small minority of the population, dominated all aspects of the country’s economy, the established church, he legal system, local government and most of the seats in both houses of the Irish parliament in Dublin. They did not, however, have full control over the government of the country. The British government treated Ireland like a colony. It controlled the Irish executive, could reject legislation approved by the Irish parliament, and accepted that the British parliament could pass laws for Ireland. This colonial subordination was resented by the Irish patriots, but they lacked the power to force the British government and parliament to make political, economic and constitutional concessions. When the American colonists, who had similar grievances, began a successful rebellion against British imperial control, the Irish patriots sympathised with the American cause and exploited Britain’s military difficulties to wring concessions out of the British government and parliament. This article explores how the Irish patriots used Britain’s difficulties to secure a range of concessions that gave the Irish parliament much greater control over internal Irish affairs. It also seeks to explain why the Irish patriots stopped short of seeking complete independence from Britain. It maintains that they were afraid to share power with the Gaelic and Roman Catholic majority population in Ireland because such concessions would lead to the destruction of their own political, religious and economic privileges. They could not resist the demands of the oppressed Gaelic and Roman Catholic majority if they lost the military support of Britain. Ultimately, their struggle was to secure their political rights, not the rights of all the Irish people.
Open access on CEEOL: NO



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