The Restoration Period in England

What is the restoration period in England?

  • The period between 1660 (Charles II came to reign) and 1688 is considered to be the restoration period in England.

  • Political Monarchy, Parliament and Law were brought back to their former status i.e. restored.

  • In case of religion- episcopacy or the rule of Bishops was brought back in practice.

  • In case of social life- the nobles and the gentry once again became the recognized leaders of provincial and national life.

What did Charles II do after he came to throne?

  • In 1648, Oliver Cromwell defeated Charles I in civil war and beheaded him in 1649.

  • Oliver Cromwell became the Lord Protector and the Ruler of the English Commonwealth in 1649.

  • He died of malaria in palace of Whitehall, London in 1658 and his public funeral happened at Westminster Abbey.

  • The Lord Protector power was then passed on to his son Richard Cromwell.

  • In 1660, Charles II came back to reign.

  • He recalled his father’s beheading act and ordered to take Oliver Cromwell’s body along with John Bredshaw (President of the High court of Justice for the trial of Charles I and First Lord President of the council of state of English Commonwealth) and Henry Ireton (Son-in-law of Oliver Cromwell and an English general in the Parliamentary Army during the civil war.)

  • All the three bodies were left hanging from morning till four in the evening.

  • Then those bodies were cut down and beheaded.

  • The heads were spiked in a spear of 20ft tall and was placed above the Westminster Abbey (the place where the trial of Charles I and his beheading act happened).

The Restoration in Each Field:

Religion:

  • Anglicanism became the acknowledged religion of Upper class people.

  • Parish church was patronised by the local squire.

  • The Non-Conformists and particularly the Quakers suffered religious persecution under the “Calrendon Code”

  • The Roman Catholics were shut out from all participation in local and national Government.

Politics:

  • The formation of Tories and Whigs happened during this period.

  • The Upper class was divided into Tories and Whigs.

  • The Tories – are like the Cavaliers, they were always supporters of the King.

  • The Whigs - are like their roundhead commercial men and commercial interests who always stood for the rights of the Parliament.

Science:

  • Experimental Science was spreading fast in England during this period.

  • First time science was believed to give development in agriculture, industry, navigation, medicine, and engineering.

  • The Royal Society of Science was found in 1662.

  • The great scientists of the time were: Isaac Newton (the Physicist), Robert Boyle (the Chemist)

  • The conflict between science and religion did not raise during this period. Because, the famous scientists of the time were religious people and omitted the confusions or questions that raised controversial.

  • With spread of science, people started to understand plagues, fires and floods were not necessarily God’s punishment for sins.

  • Belief in witches and witch crafts became less widespread though it continued to have some believers (nistics).

Theatre and Drama:

  • The theatres were opened but with few changes.

  • The whole playhouse was roofed.

  • Artificial lighting with candles was used.

  • Drop curtains were used.

  • And painted sceneries were also used.

  • Women’s parts in a play were no longer played by well-trained young boys. Women actresses were accepted.

  • The Restoration plays were noted for their vulgarity and created a hostile attitude to the dramas in the minds of decent people, as a result till the late-nineteenth century well-brought-up young people were not allowed to visit the theatre.

  • One of the early Restoration play was Wycherley’s Country Wife which is considered to be one of the most vulgar plays ever produced in English.

Literature:

  • In the Restoration period censorship was rigid.

  • The first Licensing Act was passed in 1663 by the Cavalier Parliament, chiefly the aim was to prevent the publication of seditious and Puritan writings.

  • The permission was easy enough for publishing the great epics, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.

  • In spite of the rigid censorship, private libraries were becoming more and more common.

  • Some of the private libraries of the period are: Samuel Pepys, The Cotton Family and The Yeomen Families.

  • In 1684, the first Public library was established in London by Tension.

Society and wealth:

  • With restoration, the Cavalier families with landed property changed for the better.

  • The economic situation was gradually becoming unfavourable.

  • The two largest sections of the society were those who cultivated their small bits of land and the wage-earners.

  • The wages were regulated by the Justices of the Peace.

  • The wealth of the country was not at all evenly distributed.

  • In general central countries were richer than the rest of the nation.

  • The richest was Middlesex.

  • The seven countries of north were poor and the poorest was Cumberland.

  • The poverty of the northern countries were strange because they possessed the biggest coal mines and textile mills.

Sports:

  • Shooting partridges was the privilege of the squires alone.

  • The netting of birds was a fashionable sport of the time.

  • Fox hunting was becoming more and more popular.

  • Pursuit of hare than the hunting of Deer or Fox was made exciting with a pack of hounds, the gentlemen on the horseback and the common folk running, headed by the huntsman with his pole.

  • Wrestling, boxing and sword fighting.

  • Bull and Bear baiting, various kinds of football.

  • Cock-fighting was the popular of all pastimes.

  • Horse-racing has become more prominent owing to the Royal Patronage.

Natural Calamities:

  • The Plague- 1665 carried away one-fifth of the London population.

  • The Great Fire- 1666, raged for five long days, destroyed all the churches and other buildings of the city.

  • It took four or five years to complete the reconstruction of London.

Sources:

Social History of England by Louise Creighton

An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier

A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge

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