We've been here before (350 years ago)

By Symon Hill
May 13, 2010

History has great comic timing. It is 350 years this month since a major political compromise with an uncanny modern-day parallel.

In 1660, there had been no monarchy in England for eleven years. Following the overthrow of Charles I, a variety of alternative systems had been tried, some more democratic than others. But then the more right-wing members of the government did a deal with the royalists who were in exile.

Fearing political instability and a worsening economic situation, they rejected their radical past and reached an agreement with the most reactionary force in politics. They invited the former king's son to take the throne. They assured the country that their moderating influence would temper the royalists' excesses and prevent their abuse of power.

In May 1660, the king's son took power as King Charles II.

The influence of the 'moderates' was short-lived. Charles II broke the promises he had made to them as he presided over worsening poverty and growing resentment towards the rich. His government rapidly became one of the most unpopular in history.

The first part of this story has an obvious parallel this week. Let's hope the second part won't be so closely repeated.

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