17th Century England
In the 16th century England, under the Tudors Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, developed a centralized monarchy with an increasingly professional administration.
By the end of the 17th century an administratively and militarily centralized state emerged in England. The 17th century is the century of James I, Jamestown, Pilgrims to America, Civil War, Cromwell, the London Plague, Regicide, The Great Fire of London, the British slave trade, Irish genocide--and a reasonably straight forward commercial arrangement with India through the HEIC.
The 17th century is also the century of the beginning of the dramatic gap between rich and poor in England. The spoils of slavery based mercantilism created, and then enriched a land owning class which controlled Parliament until the second half of the 19th century. Enclosure Acts threw peasants (yeoman) off land their families had (inefficiently) farmed for generations and set up the mass of landless peasants which would provide factory fodder for the Industrial revolution. Enclosure Acts also created large farms which led to efficient farming and higher yield per acre. Enclosure Acts also led to the sports of steeple chasing, fox hunting and, later show-jumping -- farmers had to have horses which could navigate hedges and fences at speed.
Unlike India, where central Delhi power began weakening early in the 18th century with the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, England entered the 18th century with power firmly centralized in London, and with a massively profitable, slavery based Empire strung along the shores of the Atlantic.
In the 17th century Englishmen discovered that the wrath of God did not descend on them when they killed their King, Charles I. They did however decide they liked republicanism even less than a monarchy. The English compromise was to restore a weaker monarchy and to control the King's power through a "Parliament".
The new King, Charles II, was restored in 1660, and Parliament began to play a larger part in the government of England.
There were continuing wars between England, Scotland and Ireland during this period. Scotland eventually surrendered and the union of Scotland and England took place in 1701. The Battle of Culloden in the 18th century (1746) is a seminal event in the annals of Great Britain. The "ethnic cleansing" of Culloden led to the impoverishment of Scotland's nobility and accounted for the large number of once wealthy Scotsmen who went to India and other colonies to seek their fortunes. The upper reaches of HEIC administration had a very large percentage of Scotsmen
Ireland's tragic story continued in the 17th century. Ireland was "occupied" by England and remained so for the next two hundred or so years. The Irish fled Ireland in the thousands. They went to America and the West Indies and England where they performed menial tasks and joined Britain's army and contributed a very large part of Britain's infantry. The "Europeans" of the HEIC army in India was comprised of a large number of Irishmen followed later by a few Irish women.
England's wars against Scotland and Ireland were particularly brutal. Genocidal is an accurate word to apply to the English treatment of the Irish and maybe to the Scots as well in this period.
The future ethnic cleansing and herding of native Americans off their land, was first carried out on Irishmen in Ireland and to a lesser degree on Scotsmen in Scotland.
The British Army and Navy
The Puritan New Model Army started by Cromwell laid the foundations for a permanent standing army. England developed a (small) permanent army for the first time in the 17th century. Despite its suspicion of the king, Parliament reluctantly authorized a permanent army, reporting to the King for use against French inspired Catholic Stuart restoration. This reluctance to finance a large standing army has been a consistent theme in English politics. It has its roots initially in British poverty and in suspicion of royal power.
From the 17th century onwards British military strategy consistently stressed a strong navy and a very small standing army assisted by mercenaries and allies when necessary.
The British used German Hessians in the American Civil war, and against Napoleon in 1815. The use of an Indian army to expand Britain's Empire in the 19th century and the use of Indian soldiers in WW1 and WW II is in line with a long British tradition of using mercenaries. The French complained (during WWI I think) that Britain's strategy was to fight "to the last drop of French blood".
England and Colonies and Slavery
By the late 17th century colonies had been established up and down the East coast of North America and highly profitable plantations were active in the three way slave trade between England, Africa and the West Indies. The rise of Bristol and Liverpool as major ports at this time was due to the Atlantic trade in slaves, prisoners, and starving Irishmen going to America as indentured servants.
The practice of "Barbadoing" began in the 1660's. The word arises from the practice of Judge Jeffries "the hanging judge" to give prisoners the choice of a one way ticket to Barbados or of hanging.
In 16xx Britain obtained a license to supply slaves to the Spanish colonies in the New World. This slave trade and the rum and sugar trade with the slave plantations of the British West Indies (BWI) began to make Englishmen economically dependent on the African slave trade, and Britain became the world's largest slave trader. The English coin the "Guinea" marks the celebration of the slave trade. The slave trade was eventually made illegal for British ships in 1807 when the BWI became economically unimportant. It was abolished in the British Empire in 1837.
English Social Life
During the first half of this century, internally, England was the same struggling rather poor country she had always been. The upheavals of the civil war and wars with Ireland and Scotland drained the country. There was a mini "ice age" to add to the miseries of the poor. In fact poverty continued to increase throughout the century. In the later part of the century money from the BWI slave plantations and the slave trade began pouring into the hands of England's mercantile class and Parliament became even more powerful. The gap between rich and poor began to widen, and large scale emigration and deportation to America became a fact of life.
The advantages of colonies to mother countries as captive suppliers of raw material, captive markets for finished products and dumping grounds for the socially undesirable became obvious to Europeans. The race for colonies was on.
On to 18th_C_Britain.htm