7 - Constitutional monarchy, poaching, food riots and the breakdown of the moral economy
- brutal repression of radical ideas post civil war and return to censorship
- national debt, speculation, modern day banking arrive in England from Holland with Dutch monarchy, leading to a century of boom and bust bubbles and expensive wars which bankers make good profit from
- Amsterdam was previously the financial centre of Europe and was the centre for economic alchemy, this soon moves to London
- concept of 'free' markets lead to removal of regulation which protected poor
songs, poems, quotes and stories
- The Lincolnshire Poacher
- Van Dieman's Land
- many other poaching songs
- quote from E.P. Thompson 'The Making Of The English Working Class' (see below)
- 1688 Glorious Revolution
So the civil war is over, the parliamentarians have defeated the royalists and in the process of doing this have beheaded the king which causes much confusion... Because the king was ruling under divine right as gods chosen vessel in the country and god doesn't seem to get too upset by the beheading... ...Anyway, a few confusions later we find Oliver Cromwell appointing himself supreme dictator of the country and when he dies this passes onto his son... Which sounds a lot like monarchy again to a lot of people... And doesn't work out so well as Cromwell's son isn't very good at it!!
This situation it ultimately resolved several more confusions later by inviting the Dutch monarchy over from Holland but creating a constitutional monarchy which means the king had much less power and is starting to become more of a figurehead.
One of the reasons why the Dutch monarchy was chosen was because at that time Amsterdam was the financial centre of Europe and they had invented a lot of the tools and ideas (or tricks?!) that came together to make up modern day economics. Ideas like stocks and shares, free markets, supply and demand and that old chestnut... What is good for the economy is good for everyone as the money will eventually trickle down!
Pretty soon London had replaced Amsterdam as the financial centre of Europe, nearly all of the legislation in place to protect people from ruthless capitalists was repeeled and the people of England were up in arms at the government allowing profit being put before people the length and breadth of the country.
Around this time parliament also begins to make a fundamental change in how the burden of tax is distributed. Where previously land and assets had incurred the most tax, we now find that commodities attract a significant amount of tax which has the affect of shifting the balance from taxing the wealthy few to taxing all the rest.
Around this time resistance often manifested itself in food riots. Up until this point staples such as wheat and corn had a common price which was fixed and everyone knew ...suddenly prices were allowed to wildly fluctuate depending on supply and demand and middle men called forestallers who were previously illegal are allowed to hoard produce, drive up the price and sell when they think they can get the most profit. Here is a little excerpt from E.P. Thompson's classic 'the making of the English working class' to illustrate...
More often the 'mobs' showed self-discipline, within a customary pattern of behaviour. Perhaps the only occasion in his life when John Wesley commended a disorderly action was when he noted in his journal the actions of a mob in James' Town, Ireland;
the mob —had been in motion all the day; but their business was only with the forestallers of the market, who had bought up all the corn far and near, to starve the poor, and load a Dutch ship, which lay at the quay; but the mob brought it all out into the market, and sold it for the owners at the common price. And this they did with all the calmness and composure imaginable, and without striking or hurting anyone.
In Honiton in 1766 lace-workers seized corn on the premises of the farmers, took it to market themselves, sold it, and returned the money and even the sacks back to the farmers.
As well as food riots, poaching was another significant form of resistence and direct action against the parliamentary rule. A game act of 1671 had made it illegal to hunt or trap wild animals which was a major affront as people considered hunting animals to be a common right since time immemorial. It also made it illegal for farmers to protect their crops from rabbits and other animals who fancied a chew.