The Cromwellian Protectorate and the Languages of Empire
CitationArmitage, David. 1992. The Cromwellian Protectorate and the languages of empire. Historical Journal 35(3): 531-555.
AbstractThis article recovers some of the classical, constitutional, and religious languages of empire in early-modern Britain by a consideration of the period between the end of the first Anglo-Dutch war in 1654 and the calling of the second Protectoral Parliament in 1656. It examines in particular the strategic and political motivations for Cromwell's `western design' against the Spanish possessions in the Caribbean and presents the response to the failure of the design and the oppositional literature published around the second Protectoral Parliament as the immediate context for the publication of James Harrington's Oceana (1656). It is argued that Harrington's Machiavellian meditation on imperialism is intended as a critique of the expansion of the British republic, so placing Harrington more firmly within the oppositional bloc of the late Protectorate. A concluding section details the recovery of this moment of historical argument in the heat of the opposition to Sir Robert Walpole during the early stages of Anglo-Spanish hostility in 1738-9, and leads to some wider reflections both on the ideological uses of history in the creation of the British empire and on the centrality of the languages of empire to an understanding of Anglo-American intellectual history up to the late eighteenth century.
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