Friday, November 14, 2008

Remember the revolution?

Ronan Bennett does, albeit through a TV review [Roobin's note: Devil's Whore? Could there be a less classy title for a TV drama?]. Jan 31st 2009 is the anniversary of King Charles 1st execution outside the Banqueting Hall on Whitehall. It was the climax of a mostly forgotten period of struggle, a period that founded modern Britain (the other, I think was the Putney Debates, the transcript of which lay gathering dust in an Oxford University archive until the middle of the 19th century). As Bennett points out:

Of course, it is more comforting for political centrists to interpret the tumults of the period as an aberration. That way, England's "genius for compromise" is given the authoritative endorsement of tradition, and the role of organised and militant radicalism - from the Levellers to the suffragettes and early trade unionists - can be quietly put to one side. Today, those who notice the Banqueting House at all will probably do so because it was built by Inigo Jones and not because it was on this site that the English people, almost 360 years ago, showed they were not subjects after all.

Celebrate the revolution, it's people and it's heroes, Lilliburne, Rainsborough, Sexby etc. As with the French or American revolutions (or the Risorgimento) remember they are not our revolutions. They were carried out by different people, with different aims. Nonetheless:

Was there an English revolution? Make no mistake: yes, there was.

Let's remind people of that.

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