In the wake of the execution of Charles I, the Adventurers gained control
over the Council of State’s external trade policy, culminating in the
adoption of the Navigation Act of 1651. In swift succession, they arranged
finance and logistics for Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland and parliament’s
reducing of the Atlantic colonies. The Caribbean plantations were converted
to sugar production and the Adventurers took a leading role in adapting
these plantations to the African slave trade. This chapter demonstrates that
a core group of merchants dominated the greater part of England’s foreign
trade, state finance and state expenditure. They had developed an integrated
fiscal state and were thus able to project considerable political influence
as well as profiting enormously from these activities.
This chapter opens with the Adventurers’ breach with Oliver Cromwell over his
intention to use most of the confiscated Irish land to settle debts due to
the army in Ireland. The disagreement came to a head when Cromwell dissolved
parliament in April 1653 and ordered the dismissal of the Adventurers from
all state finance committees and other salaried positions. The Cromwellian
authorities in Dublin produced the Down Survey to assist with the
distribution of land to soldiers while the Adventurers continued to press
their claims. The departure of the Adventurers marked the beginning of a
steady decline in the Protectorate’s finances and disasters in foreign
policy that included the Western Design in the Caribbean and the subsequent
naval war with Spain. The Adventurers made new alliances with their former
royalist adversaries and the chapter concludes with a description of how the
Adventurers leveraged an old relationship with General George Monck to help
facilitate the restoration of Charles II.
The Atlantic oligarchy reacted in a coordinated way to the upheavals which
engulfed Scotland, Ireland and finally England, 1638–42. It made the
financial arrangements that ended the Bishops’ Wars while securing the
calling of the Long Parliament and then took the lead in reinforcing
Protestant Ireland following the outbreak of the 1641 revolt. The colonial
merchants emerged as a powerful force in London politics at the outbreak of
the city’s rebellion against Charles I in January 1642. The central argument
of this chapter is that the merchant networks that supported parliament’s
opposition to the king were not operating independently, but were
contractors to or under the patronage of specific peers. The key role of
colonial sponsors and returned migrants from the colonies in the upheavals
of the winter of 1641–42 is made clear. Alliances forged in the Atlantic
world between 1620 and 1640 finally coalesced as a pivotal political and
military force at the forefront of parliament’s ousting of Charles I from
London in January 1642.
This chapter situates Freeman’s complex views on race and English nationalism in the context of his wider belief in Aryanism and narratives on European development. Through a study of his Comparative Politics – Freeman’s definitive work on race – I show that his racial theory was not idiosyncratic, but closely aligned with the scholarship of Thomas Arnold, Friedrich Max Müller, and Henry Sumner Maine. It is argued that Freeman defined the Aryan community in terms of political heritage and culture, rather than biology, and this led him to produce a narrative on Aryan development that was cyclical rather than unilinear. It is clear that, for Freeman, the success of a nation was determined by its ability to include all of its citizens in the processes of government. He demonstrates this argument by a consideration of the rise and fall of ancient Rome and ancient Greece. While the invention of representative government in modern Europe was an advance on the systems of the ancients, Freeman feared that imperial expansionism and over-extension jeopardised the stability of the modern nation-state.
The conclusion draws together the themes of the monograph to reconsider Freeman’s thought in relationship to the new readings of his work advanced in this book. Far from being a confident proponent of white racial supremacy, Freeman’s writing shows that he was fearful and anxious about the future of the Aryan nations. For Freeman, British imperialism, the ‘Judeo-Islamic’ conspiracy, and contact with the Orient, each posed a threat to Western stability.
Chapter 6 focuses on Freeman’s second neglected volume on Oriental history, the Ottoman Power in Europe. Written at the height of the Great Eastern Crisis, which was the consequence of the Bulgarian atrocities, Freeman wrote the volume as a polemic against the Ottoman Empire. Freeman narrates the history of the Turks in order to demonstrate that their religion has meant that they have never been able to treat Christians fairly, and that they have consistently committed barbarous and violent acts. I argue that Freeman’s work is suffused by his fear of the ‘Oriental conspiracy’ between Jews and Muslims, and examine his call for a war which would, finally and permanently, remove the Ottoman power from Europe.
This chapter considers Freeman’s hostility towards the contemporary Ottoman Empire as a representative of the ‘backwardness’ of Muslim nations. Freeman was especially incensed by the Ottoman rule over the Christians of south-eastern Europe as he believed that the Turkish Empire was preventing the Aryans of those nations from progressing. These attitudes were dramatically reinforced, for Freeman, by the news that the Ottomans had committed atrocities against their Bulgarian subjects in 1876. Together with Gladstone, Freeman led a nation-wide campaign calling on the British government to intervene on behalf of the subjects of the Ottoman Empire. That the Premier, Benjamin Disraeli, refused to do so was taken by Freeman as evidence of his natural sympathy for the Islamic power. I argue that the hysterical tone of much of Freeman’s writing on this topic was underpinned by his belief that Disraeli, as a ‘Jew’, was conspiring with the Muslim Turks in a plot to destroy Euro-Christendom.
This book seeks to reclaim E. A. Freeman (1823–92) as a leading Victorian historian and public moralist. Freeman was a prolific writer of history, Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, and outspoken commentator on current affairs. His reputation declined sharply in the twentieth century, however, and the last full-scale biography was W. R. W. Stephens’ Life and Letters of Edward A. Freeman (1895). When Freeman is remembered today, it is for his six-volume History of the Norman Conquest (1867–79), celebrations of English progress, and extreme racial views. Revisiting Freeman and drawing on previously unpublished materials, this study analyses his historical texts in relationship to the scholarly practices and intellectual preoccupations of their time. Most importantly, it draws out Thomas Arnold’s influence on Freeman’s understanding of history as a cyclical process in which the present collapsed into the past and vice versa. While Freeman repeatedly insisted on the superiority of the so-called ‘Aryans’, a deeper reading shows that he defined race in terms of culture rather than biology and articulated anxieties about decline and recapitulation. Contrasting Freeman’s volumes on Western and Eastern history, this book foregrounds religion as the central category in Freeman’s scheme of universal history. Ultimately, he conceived world-historical development as a battleground between Euro-Christendom and the Judeo-Islamic Orient and feared that the contemporary expansion of the British Empire and contact with the East would prove disastrous.
This chapter considers Freeman’s determined public campaign against late Victorian proposals for Imperial Federation. Where proponents of this scheme argued for formal constitutional union between Britain and the white settler colonies, including Canada and Australia, Freeman maintained that such schemes were dangerously unprecedented in Western history. Joining forces with W. E. Gladstone, Freeman argued that a better model of co-operation, based on free and mutual friendship between the metropolis and its outposts, could be found in the loose federations of ancient Greece. Through an examination of Freeman’s letters to the press, his History of Federal Government in Greece and Italy, and Rede lecture on ‘The Unity of History’, I demonstrate that Freeman was a leading critic of the British Empire. Freeman was hostile to the Empire due to his fear of over-extension and disaster and because the Empire included non-Aryans. Ultimately, I demonstrate that Freeman viewed the West and the East as two separately co-existing and conflicting cultures and was anxious about the possible outcomes of contact between the two civilisations.
‘History is past politics, politics is present history’
The introduction explains the purpose of the book as an attempt to reassess the works of the Victorian historian Edward Augustus Freeman. It highlights Freeman’s position as a leading scholar and public moralist of the nineteenth century and also considers some of the characteristics of his writing which limited his success. Freeman’s debt to the Liberal Anglican philosopher Thomas Arnold is discussed, as are Freeman’s racial views. There is also a review of recent literature on Freeman.