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The Commonwealth and Cromwell

As a result of the Civil War between the Royalists and the supporters of the Parliament, leaded by Oliver Cromwell, in 1649 the king Charles I was executed and the Stuart monarchy was abolished. For the first time in England, the country was ruled as a republic which was known as the Commonwealth. In the same year Cromwell, who had become the commander in chief of the army, suppressed a rebellion in Ireland which was after that treated as an English colony. After the submission of Scotland, the English army achieved full control of the political situation. In 1653 Cromwell became “Lord Protector of England, Ireland and Scotland” and he ruled until 1658, bringing England back to the status and prestige it had lost. He reorganized the Navy and resumed the “Navigation Acts” against Holland; English ships would take care of all imports so that the Dutch lost their control over the trade routes. The Dutch didn’t accept these acts without a fight but they were defeated in the Dutch War that followed. In 1655 the Commonwealth also defeated the Spanish fleet and took control of Jamaica which became an English colony for over three centuries.

In England Cromwell had to rely always to the army which had given him power but when he died in 1658 the Protectorate collapsed. At his death, his son tried to take control of the army commanders but, unsuccessful, he resigned and the General George Monk, who was commander of the northern Commonwealth troops marched to London where he summoned a new Parliament that declared that the Government was to be by Lords and Commons. When in 1660 the Parliament asked Charles II to the return from his exile, the republic ended and the restoration of the monarchy was welcomed with relief by most English people.

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