Review: Short Oxford History of the British Isles: The Seventeenth Century

In the course of doing research for my book on the decline of the West, it might seem strange that I have zeroed in on Britain and the Netherlands in the seventeenth century.

I’ve thoroughly studied the Renaissance and the Reformation in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. I’m confident that what I am looking for isn’t found in this period. The most interesting aspect of the Reformation would be the antinomians who were radical fringe of Protestantism who believed that the saved were not bound by the moral law and social conventions.

It is hard to argue though that Anabaptist groups like the Hutterites, the Amish and the Mennonites caused the moral collapse of the West. They were the religious radicals of their day, but now we think of these groups as the most “traditionalist” people in Europe and America. The New Jerusalem of the Münster rebellion was disturbing, but didn’t lead to anything that put down roots.

It is toward the tail end of the Reformation that we begin to see the emergence of the roots of liberalism in Britain and the Netherlands. This disease grew out of the Reformed world which I found surprising given how liberalism is such a drastic departure from Calvinism. As we will see, John Calvin was the opposite of an individualist, egalitarian, individualist, free thinker or a hedonist. There are few places in the world that a modern liberal would consider more hellish than Calvin’s Geneva.

The key to understanding this is that Calvinism never fully triumphed in England or the Netherlands. The followers of Jacobus Arminius challenged Calvinism. Without getting into the theological nuances, it will suffice to say that in the Netherlands the outcome of this clash was the Dutch Reformed Church became the established church, but only served a minority of the population. In England, the conflict between the Puritans and Presbyterians who were Calvinists and the ascendant Arminians in the Anglican Church and at the Stuart court of Charles I escalated into the English Civil War.

The upshot of this is that church discipline broke down in the chaos of the English Civil War like it was breaking down in parts of the Netherlands where religion was becoming voluntary. Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell let the Jews back into England in order to hasten their conversion and bring on the Apocalypse. Dissenters were tolerated and allowed to practice their faith openly and this led to the flourishing under Cromwell of a new wave of radical groups like the Diggers, Levellers and Ranters. Most of these religious cranks disappeared after the Restoration but one radical egalitarian group, the so-called Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers stuck around and would later have a major impact. Jews also flocked to cities like Amsterdam in the Netherlands that practiced religious tolerance and threw out the welcome mat for them after they were finally driven out of Spain and Portugal.

I read Jenny Wormald’s Short Oxford History of the British Isles: The Seventeenth Century to brush up on my knowledge of British history and to find other sources. It wasn’t a bad introduction to the topic. It is basically the story of how the Stuart dynasty blew it and the Whigs, who are the ancestors of modern day liberals, ended up dominating Britain in the eighteenth century.

We start off the Stuart dynasty with James I, the king of Scotland, who began the king of England, Scotland and Ireland after the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. James I was a big believer in the divine right of kings and witch hunting. He wrote books about both topics. The seventeenth century began in Britain with James I arguing in favor of absolutism and an Anglican Church in which attendance was mandatory and ended with the Glorious Revolution and King William III and Mary II in charge, John Locke writing his Two Treatises of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration, the founding of the Bank of England and the end of censorship and the toleration of Dissenters.

The most important development in Britain in this century was the Scientific Revolution. Francis Bacon, the grandfather of modern science, blazed the trail to Issac Newton with his experiments. The Royal Society was founded in 1660. All of these advances in science and the fetishization of what was called “the mechanical philosophy” inspired the worldview that the universe was governed by immutable natural laws and that mankind could understand and control nature. This was the seed of the Enlightenment idea that human societies could be reconstructed on a new secular, rational and naturalistic basis.

I’ve heard thousands of times now that Christianity is “universalist” and “egalitarian” and is somehow the cause of our current predicament, but that is not where my research into Early Modern Europe is pointing. Instead, it seems that what happened was that Europeans continued to translate, digest and popularize texts from Antiquity. It started with Aristotle and Cicero in the High Middle Ages and Plato in the Renaissance. After Plato, European intellectuals in the seventeenth century became interested in Hermes Trismegistus, the Jewish Cabala and the occult (creating new organizations like Freemasonry), Epicurus and finally with Sextus Empiricus, Pyrrho and the Skeptics. The revival of atomism and materialism in the seventeenth century is related to both the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.

Thomas Hobbes believed that only matter existed and that God was a material being. John Locke was heavily influenced by Robert Boyle’s corpuscular theory of matter. Both Hobbes and Locke based their theories on the “state of nature” and the “social contract.” Neither Hobbes or Locke were traditional Christians. The former was derided as an atheist and the latter was a Unitarian. Both were inspired by developments going on in contemporary science. Locke argued that rights were somehow based on “nature,” not English legal traditions.

A number of things came together here that sowed the seeds of liberalism in seventeenth century Britain – the revival of materialism in science, the breakdown of church discipline during the English Civil War, the grudging acceptance of religious tolerance, the return of the Jews to Britain, the growth of London and Amsterdam into large cities at the forefront of European commerce, the spread of newspapers and coffee houses, the reduction of the mortality rate due to the disappearance of the plague, etc.

Britain was far being “liberal” at this time though. Cromwell’s brutal conquest of Ireland is proof that the English were still far from thinking in terms of universal natural rights. Religious tolerance was hotly disputed throughout this century even during the Glorious Revolution which was triggered by James II’s Catholicism and inevitable succession crisis. This was the century of both the Royal Society and the Royal African Company when the English to seize control of the slave trade. This was when British settlers colonized Ulster in Ireland and almost the entire Atlantic seaboard of North America and created the slave societies in Barbados and Jamaica that were part of the “Golden Circle.”

No one would have described the British as “weak” in the seventeenth century. “Ruthless” was a more accurate term. The rise of Whiggery at the end of the century though heralded the world to come.

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  1. HW, I read that Spinoza’s influence on formation of the Enlightenment is overblown. Your thoughts, please.

    • I’m going to deal with Spinoza and the Netherlands separately. I have a lot to read about the subject. You guys have no idea of how many books I have acquired over the last three months.

      • With the polished articles you produce, Hunter, I would venture to say dozens or more. I have a sneaky suspicion you graduated from Evelyn Wood with highest honors.

        Happy Father’s Day!

      • HW I want to recommend a book I’ve currently been reading, “The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and Its Impact on World History” by a Catholic author, E. Michael Jones. Fascinating stuff and pretty thorough; he covers the past 2,000 years of history so most all of it directly ties in with your research.

      • What do you specifically mean by ‘decline of the West’? To the rest of the world it looks the West has come to dominate the whole planet. Western political ideas and structures, laws and legal systems, architectural and farming styles, science and technology, clothing, music and media – everywhere you look it’s Western culture displacing others.

        And what’s the best evidence you have at this point for any Jewish involvement in the early years of the Bank of England that would encourage you to look deeper into this question?

        • In the case of Britain, we can look at the difference in the English between the time of James I and Oliver Cromwell – when the English were ruthless and aggressive – and their present degenerate state under Theresa May where police officers twerk and wear high heels and Muslim rape gangs are allowed groom and molest thousands of young English girls.

          In other words, I am interested in what happened between James I and Theresa May that brought about this state of affairs. In France, we can ask a similar question. What happened to the French between the time of Louis XIV and Macron?

          As for the Jews and the Glorious Revolution, they had been allowed to return to England under Cromwell and were allowed to stick around under Charles II due to their financial power in the Netherlands. The Dutch had pioneered modern banking and stock exchanges and those institutions were quickly established in England under William III who came over from the Netherlands.

          Now, I haven’t studied this in any detail yet, but what I have already read so far is intriguing. How powerful and influential were Jews in the Netherlands in the 17th century? To what extent did Jews become powerful and influential as shareholders in the Bank of England? What role did Jews play in the development of liberalism in England and the Netherlands from around 1700? How influential was Spinoza?

          These are just some of the questions I am researching at the moment.

          • Brad did you read the article I linked to on Jewish presence and influence in England during this periid?

            Or, was GG right to abandon a cause that disrespects women?

            The notion that books tell any full history is wantonly ignorant. The idea that my ife experience of jews acting amongst anglos doesn’t Trump yours is sheer idiocy.

          • The early bank was not under much or any Jewish influence. The share holders are public record By the time of the American Revolution it’s safe to say that there were dominant Jewish influences. Hessians were hired by Rothschilds. Jefferson seems to have used the perjorative “London Stock Jobber” as a thinly concealed reference to Jews. He was worried about planters and shippers being in debt to them.

          • Isn’t the purpose of banking secrecy to obfuscate banking ownership so as to shield the directors from retaliation? Do we even know who owns the Fed? Kind of unusual that Parliament would invite in a King from Holland who then takes power without firing a shot.

          • The shots between James II and William of Orange were fired in Ireland at the Boyne. A jacobite army of French and Irish against williamite English and Dutch. James had I believe lost significant naval battles before William invaded.

          • But as recently as the mid 20th century Brits and the Americans were ruthless and aggressive and dominated twerkers and Muslims in their native habitats entirely.

            James Bond would be a more apt study than James I. He undoubtedly plays a stronger role in framing issues of national identity, foreign relations and sexual morality for contemporary Brits and even Americans than any competing strain of philosophical speculation from centuries ago.

            The history of ideas just doesn’t explain anything in the real world because the people in power are all about identity not ideas.

          • The lists of investors. The bank was literally set up to fund the Royal Navy after the Dutch fleet burst into Chatham docks and sank the fleet.

            It was an emergency measure to build ships.

  2. “The rise of Whiggery at the end of the century though heralded the world to come.”

    Yesterday’s Whiggery has indeed resulted into today’s Wiggery.

  3. A commendable effort to achieve and to help others achieve moral, intellectual and historical clarity. I (almost) always enjoy your work. Happy Father’s Day.

  4. The British state’s ability to simultaneous stage commercial expansion in India and North America is critically important to balance out in the account.

    Robert Clive at Plassey and James Wolfe at Quebec locked down the shape of the world to come.

    • The English were a strong people at this time and for a long time thereafter. See the conquest of Ireland, the establishment of the British Empire in North America, the expansion of the Empire in India in the 18th century.

      What was it that made the English into what they are today? Not really just the English, but Europeans in general? How did we become so weak and soft? How did we become sick?

  5. What happened between the time of “James I” and Theresa May?
    Pretty simple, civilization.
    In the first line of the first chapter of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, said the “Belgians” were the bravest of all Gauls because they lived far away and were not exposed to the weakening effects of civilization

    “Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae…”
    “The Belgae are the bravest, because they are the furthest from the civilization and refinement of our province (Gallia Narbonensis), and merchants least frequently resort to them, and import those things wich tend to effeminate the mind.”
    Exposure to civilization is corrosive on the body and soul. There’s no escape from that.

  6. And one more thing. Northwestern Europeans have a different aspect.
    They lived for many thousands in protective isolation, surrounded by a bitterly cold climate and pretty benevolent other Europeans in the East and South.
    They evolved in a high trust environment necessary for survival, so they are easy prey for predators like Jews, and now Muslims, Africans and Asiatics.

    I live in deep South America, working in agriculture, a tough environment.
    So sometimes in the middle of the day I have difficult or no access to the Internet. So I turn on BBC’s short wave broadcast to know what’s happening in the world. And basically it’s only females blabbering their infantile crap about economy, politics, human rights, diversity, one-world idiocy.
    It’s ridiculous, annoying and pathetic. Women have absolutely no place in discussing serious issues.
    Women around us generally know their place, no childish BS in our ears. But unfortunately, thanks to British Liberalism they can vote.

    The fall of Western civilization at least will bring something positive, the end of laughable delusional annoying masculized women.

  7. The 17th century is where you have to look in order to see the rise of the Empire of the City (HQ on the sq mi of London) which was perceived by the world as the British Empire – although England as England was finished. Because England has a legislative history much of the relevant details will be in the legislation.

    Henry VIII struck the first blow against the Magna Charta with the Act of Supremacy 1534 A.D. and the Oath of the Supremacy. And he seized all the estates of the Church for the monarchy and the barons. Here is the famous painting by Vivian Forbes 1927 of the Chancellor of England Sir Thomas More arguing with Cardinal Woolsey (sided against the papacy on behalf of King Henry). The debate is on the ‘Right of the House of Commons’ and still hangs in the Palace of Westminster.

    In 1642 the issue was still the Supremacy. The Parliamentarians under Cromwell fought the national army of England and Charles I for the Supremacy. So how did they manage to mount and equip the New Model Army on the continent and ship it back to England?
    The Nameless War by Capt. Archibald Maule Ramsay and member for Midlothian. Jailed by Zionist warlord Winston Churchill during WWII because he knew too much. (As his ‘anti-Semitic’ book clearly demonstrates.

    The Parliamentarians went to the Nasi of the Synagogue of Mulheim am der Ruhr which financed them through the Amsterdamsee Wissel Bank (which they owned) as they were later to own the Bank of England when they (styling themselves as ‘The Crown’ rather than The Owners). They established the Corporation of the City of London and the Bank of England to monetize the debt of the English Parliamentarians and the Scottish Convention of Estates to the Synagogue for the English Civil War 1642. The Parliamentarians had put up allodial title of all estates of three nations:: England, Scotland and Ireland as collateral on those loans.

    The OH SHIT moment came for the Nasi when James II succeeded Charles II. James II was a Catholic and would not sign off on a bank like the Amsterdamsee Wissel Bank – namely the Bank of England. He was one of the rare Catholic princes who took the teaching of the Church against usury seriously and he would not establish usury as the basis of the economy over a nation of tenants.

    Therefore the Nasi with their front man William of Orange invaded in force at the behest of the Parliamentarians to settle their debt for them and secure all estates.

    The real politik of this war is carefully concealed by the Parliamentary history with a lot of religious palaver and liberalism (Whig disinformation). This was the War of the Three Kingdoms fought by James II against the Parliamentarians/Synagogue led by William of Orange.

    And there are many wonderful songs about this war which finally ended at Culloden 1746.

    Sir Walter Scott wrote a very famous poem about Lord Claverhouse who was killed at Killiekrankie when that war marched into the Highlands. – which would later be cleared by ‘The Crown’ with fire, sword and musket to pasture the Cheviot Sheep for the new estate holders given leases by the Jew Bank of England.

    The Corries – Bonnie Dundee

    The bardic history of the War of the Three Kingdoms is still sung in the pubs of Scotland, England and Ireland. A whole list of these songs link up with the CSA history and songs.

    • It was by no means clear that the English would dominate the world even as late as 1760. It took Clive in India and Wolfe in Quebec to settle the issue of the hegemon. Napoleon even 40 years later came within a hairsbredth of toppling English power. In 1800 there were only 7 Million Brits and there were 20 Million French. None of the events necessarily fore ordained.

  8. As painstakingly chronicled by Dr Cecil Roth in his History of Jews in England. In 1651 Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel of the Jewish Community in Amsterdam was persuaded, perhaps by Cromwell’s Secretary of State John Thurloe, to make a formal application to the Council of Estate in London begging that Jews be allowed to re-enter the country. The matter was to become a subject of heated debate over next five years. Lord Protector Cromwell, although supportive on narrow financial grounds, underestimated the extent of the opposition.

    The 20 or so Marrano households in London were in opposition and fearful of pushback. England was then at war with Catholic spain so the Marranos boldly declared themselves political refugees from the Spanish inquisition. They petitioned the Council of State to be allowed to worship in private and this was granted by the Council of State.

    Jewish safety was embodied in the personal position of Oliver Cromwell and when he died there was much stronger pushback so that when the Catholic Charles II was returned to the throne the community thought its end was in sight.

    Menasseh ben Israel regarded the Civil War as divine punishment for the Jews expulsion from England. In 1664 with the support of Charles II the Privy Council provided the Jews with exemption from the Conventicle act which freed them from having to hold assemblies in accordance with the liturgy of the Church of England.

    Jews of Resettlement were strong for Stuarts, but bitterly opposed to catholicism.

    In 1670 there were “expenses” involved in winning friends at Westminster. Four years later the Jews had to ask the Privy Council to intercede to prevent legal proceedings being taken against Jews for exercising their religion.

    Jewish politics in this time can be summarised as a struggle to prevent a Catholic ascendance. William of Orange’s Dutch and Irish expeditions were financed by Dutch Jewish army contractors. William embarked on a policy of encouraging wealthy Jews to settle into Britain.

    With the growth of Jewish power came privilege. Twelve jew brokers were the only ones on the Stock Exchange allowed to practice in the stock exchange without being freemen of city of london. This privilege also on view in 1698 when Parliament bassed a law suppressing “Blasphemy and Profaneness”, a clause was inserted specifically exempting Jews.

    Hanoverian period saw enormous expansion of Anglo-Jewry. Jews were the staunchest supporters of Glorious Revolution of 1688 and were also staunch opponents of Stuart restoration. The Jews became the backbone of the Whigs and in 1745 during when the Jacobite rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie attempted to restore the Stuarts “Jewish merchants and brokers closed ranks behind the government” Samson Gideon helped raise loans to support the government during the rebellion. He was just one of many (p5) Services of intercession were held in Synagogues. Gideon became a confidante of a succession of prime ministers and chancellors of the exchequer. He helped raise loans for War of Austrian succession and Seven Years War. Gideons loans prevented a run on the banks. (abridged from Jewish Community and British Politics; Alderman 1983)

  9. There times when societies just degenerate for whatever reason, it isn’t always that easy to pinpoint the precise causes. Societies grow and change, sometimes it’s for the best and sometimes it isn’t. I sometimes wonder if Europe has just gotten old, the United States seems to have gotten old to me. Old people want to live in the past instead of looking forward to tomorrow, In my book the U.S. spends way too much time talking about pop culture bullshit from the 1950’s and 1960’s, old records, Leave it to Beaver, Star Trek, The Andy Griffith Show. Some of that stuff is 60 years old. And we are a lot closer to 2050 than we are 1950. Not enough time is spent thinking about where we are headed, but there is this obsession with the pop culture past.

  10. It’s a solid article, given the scope.

    The question becomes re: Bacon, Hobbes, etc, can the genie be put back in the bottle?

    I would argue that to a specific extent, it must. If you get rid of mankind’s God, mankind is soon to follow. We see that over and over again, from the French Revolution to totalitarianism of the 20th century, to AI, robotics, trans-humanism and white genocide in our own day.

    Here’s an acid test: supposing one was a hard-core materialist, would you want your neighbors to also be hard-core materialists, or Christian (or any other Zoroastrian derivative)? Any rational person would prefer Christians because they are meek and mild, like childish sheep. Very non-threatening. Contrast with materialists who could descend into nihilistic collapse at any time, dragging you with themselves. Given a desire to live well in the few years one has, the choice is obvious.

    “I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome man?”

    “All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great tide and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.”

    – Frederich Nietzsche, Also sprach Zarathustra

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