Modern England: from the eighteenth century to the present by Webb, Robert Kiefer


By Webb, Robert Kiefer

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Throughout the latter part of the seventeenth century and into the eighteenth, there was little that respectable people or the forces of order 30 Introduction could do but endure the risks of rioting; since the abolition of the Court of Star Chamber, that once popular engine of “Tudor despotism,” in 1641, disturbance of the peace was left to a common law that on this subject was highly defective. In 1715, Parliament passed the Riot Act, an extraordinary yet characteristic statute. Its purpose was to give strengthened powers to local authorities to apprehend rioters, once they had been duly warned to disperse, so that they might be prosecuted as felons.

It was an age of the brilliant political pamphlet, the moral essay, the instructive tale; and one need only compare Milton’s Paradise Lost, which towers over the poetry of the seventeenth century, with Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man, perhaps the poetic masterpiece of the eighteenth century, to appreciate the revolution that had taken place over seventy years. ’* On architecture, see John Summerson, Georgian London (1946) and Archi­ tecture in Britain, 1530-1830 (1953); Donald J. Olsen, Town Planning in London: the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (1964); and Steen Eiler Rasmussen, London, the Unique City (1937).

Court, The Rise of the Midland Industries, 1600-1838 (1938); J. H. Clapham, The Woolen and Worsted Industries (1907); and Peter Mathias, The Brewing Industry in Eng­ land, 1700-1830 (1959). 22 Introduction but because its huge population had to be supplied; given the dreadful state of inland transport, that was done largely by water. This ancient responsibility had produced highly complex and restrictive commercial and labor organizations, best illustrated perhaps in the exquisite or­ ganization of the trade in “sea coal,” shipped by a monopoly from the northeastern coal fields to meet the insatiable London demand.

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