Rebellion as opposition? Legitimate resistance in 18th century political theory and practice.

In order to understand the political scope of rebellion and violent resistance in early modern Europe, it is vital to analyse the general structures of power and opposition.

Early modern monarchies may have been autocratic in theorey, but they were far from being so in practice. In the course of time, less reliable forms of government control became institutionalised, and the idea of indispensible opposition emerged. The Parliament of London played a crucial role in the British history of ‘checks and balances’. And this has had great impact on the perception of rebellion or any other kind of ‘extra-parliamentary’ resistance.

By the end of the 18th century, the two houses of Parliament, Lords and Commons, claimed the right to oppose government policy almost exclusively, and popular resistance tended to be derogated as mere ‘mob violence‘.

The following (German) powerpoint presentation gives an insight into the development and funcionality of early modern ‘parliamentary’ procedures in both Great Britain and the Holy Roman Empire.

Several charts illustrate the complex interrelations of early modern state institutions and offices as well as conflict zones and impediments for peaceful negotiation:

Opposition und Regierungskontrolle – vergleichende Studie zum Parlamentarismus in der Frühen Neuzeit

© Monika Barget, Magisterarbeit 2008

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Monika Barget

Since September 2013, I have been a member of the international research group "Revolts as Communicative Events" based at the University of Konstanz, Germany. My research interests include early modern constitutional history and political iconography.

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