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Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth
Elizabeth was succeeded by Mary's son, James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England (r.1603–25), establishing the Stuart line. Under James and his son, Charles I (r.1625–49), the rising middle classes (mainly Puritan in religion) sought to make Parliament superior to the king. In the English Civil War, which broke out in 1642, Charles was supported by the Welsh, who had remained overwhelmingly Catholic in feeling, but most Scots opposed him. Charles was tried and executed in 1649, and Oliver Cromwell as Protector ruled the new Commonwealth until his death in 1658. Cromwell ruthlessly crushed uprisings in Ireland and suppressed the Welsh. In 1660, Charles II, eldest son of the executed king, regained the throne. The Restoration was marked by a reaction against Puritanism, by persecution of the Scottish Covenanters (Presbyterians), by increased prosperity, and by intensified political activity; during this period, Parliament managed to maintain many of its gains. Charles II's younger brother, James II (r.1685–88), who vainly attempted to restore Roman Catholicism, was overthrown in 1688 and was succeeded by his daughter, Mary II, and her Dutch husband, William III, who were invited to rule by Parliament. By this transfer of power, known to English history as the Glorious Revolution, the final supremacy of Parliament was established. Supporters of James II (Jacobites) in Scotland and Ireland, aided by France, sought to restore the deposed Stuart line, but their insurrection was suppressed in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne, fought on the banks of the Irish river of that name.
In Wales, after Cromwell and the Commonwealth, the people began to turn to Calvinism; dissent grew, and such ministers as Griffith Jones, a pioneer in popular education, became national leaders. Most Welsh were won to the Calvinistic Methodist Church, which played a large part in fostering a nonpolitical Welsh nationalism. A long struggle to disestablish the Church of England in Wales culminated successfully in a 1914 act of Parliament.
English colonial expansion developed further in the 17th and 18th centuries, in competition with France and the Netherlands, while at the same time the English merchant marine gained commercial supremacy over the Dutch. The wars of the Grand Alliance (1688–97) and of the Spanish Succession (1701–14) consolidated Britain's overseas possessions. At home, to ensure Scottish allegiance to England and prevent possible alliances with inimical countries, the Act of Union of Scotland and England was voted by the two parliaments in 1707, thereby formally creating the kingdom of Great Britain under one crown and with a single Parliament composed of representatives of both countries. This union held, despite Jacobite uprisings in 1715 and 1745–46, the latter under Prince Charles (Bonnie Prince Charlie, or the Young Pretender, grandson of James II); his defeat at Culloden Moor was the last land battle fought in Great Britain. Scottish affairs eventually became the province of the secretary of state for Scotland, a member of the British cabinet. Nevertheless, a nationalist movement demanding independence for Scotland persists to this day.
The accession of George I of the House of Hanover in 1714 (a great-grandson of James I) saw the beginning of the modern cabinet system, with the king leaving much of the governing to his ministers. The 18th century was a time of rapid colonial and mercantile expansion abroad and internal stability and literary and artistic achievement at home. Britain won control of North America and India in the Seven Years' War (ended in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris), which also established British supremacy over the seas; however, the American Revolution (1775–83) cost Britain its most important group of colonies. A few years later, British settlement of Australia and then of New Zealand became key elements in the spreading British Empire. Britain increased its power further by its leading role in the French Revolutionary Wars and in the defeat of Napoleon and French expansionist aims.
Birth of the United Kingdom
In 1800, with the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland, the United Kingdom formally came into being. The conquest of Ireland had never been consolidated; the Act of Union followed an Irish rebellion in 1798 after the failure of a demand for parliamentary reform. But although the act established Irish representation in Parliament, the Irish question continued to cause trouble throughout the 19th century. Absentee landlordism, particularly in the 26 southern counties, fostered poverty and hatred of the English. Moreover, there was a growing division of interest between these counties and the six counties of the north, popularly called Ulster, where, early in the 17th century, Protestant Scots and English had settled on land confiscated by the British crown after a rebellion. While the north gradually became Protestant and industrial, the rest of Ireland remained Catholic and rural. With the introduction of the first Home Rule Bill in 1886, the northern Irish, fearing domination by the southern Catholic majority, began a campaign that ended in the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, which established separate domestic legislatures for the north and south, as well as continued representation in the UK Parliament. The six northern counties accepted the act and became Northern Ireland. The 26 southern counties, however, did not accept it; in 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed, by which these counties left the United Kingdom to become the Irish Free State (now the Irish Republic, or Éire), which was officially established in 1922.
Queen Victoria's Reign
The Industrial Revolution, beginning in the second half of the 18th century, provided the economic underpinning for British colonial and military expansion throughout the 1800s. However, the growth of the factory system and of urbanization also brought grave new social problems. The enclosure of grazing land in the Scottish highlands and the industrialization of southern Wales were accompanied by extensive population shifts and led to largescale emigration to the United States, Canada, and Australia. Reform legislation came slowly, although the spirit of reform and social justice was in the air. Slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1834. The great Reform Acts of 1832, 1867, and 1884 enfranchised the new middle class and the working class. Factory acts, poor laws, and other humanitarian legislation did away with some of the worst abuses, and pressure mounted for eliminating others. The long reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901) saw an unprecedented commercial and industrial prosperity. This was a period of great imperial expansion, especially in Africa, where at the end of the century Britain fought settlers of predominantly Dutch origin in the South African (or Boer) War. Toward the end of the century, also, the labor movement grew strong, education was developed along national lines, and a regular civil service was finally established.
The 20th Century
The vast economic and human losses of World War I, in which nearly 800,000 Britons were killed, brought on serious disturbances in the United Kingdom as elsewhere, and the economic depression of the 1930s resulted in the unemployment of millions of workers. In 1931, the Statute of Westminster granted the status of equality to the self-governing British dominions and created the concept of a British Commonwealth of Nations. During the late 1930s, the government of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sought to avoid war by appeasing Nazi Germany, but after Hitler invaded Poland, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. Prime Minister Winston Churchill led the United Kingdom during World War II in a full mobilization of the population in the armed services, in home defense, and in war production. Although victorious, the United Kingdom suffered much destruction from massive German air attacks, and the military and civilian death toll exceeded 900,000. At war's end, a Labour government was elected; it pledged to carry out a full program of social welfare "from the cradle to the grave," coupled with the nationalization of industry. Medicine was socialized, other social services were expanded, and several industries were put under public ownership. Complete nationalization of industry, however, was halted with the return to power of the Conservatives in 1951. During Labour's subsequent terms in office, from 1964 to 1970 and from 1974 to 1979, little further nationalization was attempted.
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