George III: King and Politicians, 1760-1770

George III: King and Politicians, 1760-1770

George III: King and Politicians, 1760-1770

George III: King and Politicians, 1760-1770

Synopsis

The eighteenth-century was long deemed 'the classical age of the constitution' in Britain, with cabinet government based on a two-party system of Whigs and Tories in Parliament, and a monarchy whose powers had been emasculated by the Glorious Revolution o. This study furthers the work of Sir Lewis Namier who argued in 1929 that no such party system existed, George III was not a cypher and that Parliament was an administration comprising of factions and opposition. George III was a high-profile and well-known character in British history whose policies have often been blamed for the loss of Britain's American colonies, around whom rages a perennial dispute over his aims: was he seeking to restore royal power, or merely excercising his constitutional rights'. The first chronological survey of the first ten years of George III's reign through power politics and policy-making.

Excerpt

The eighteenth century was long deemed 'the classical age of the constitution' in Britain, with cabinet government based on a two-party system of Whigs and Tories in Parliament, and a monarchy whose powers had been emasculated by the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89. This simple picture was destroyed in 1929 when Sir Lewis Namier published his The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III. He demonstrated that no such party system existed; that the monarchy was not a cypher; and that the correct political analysis of Parliament was of an administration side comprising factions of politicians currently in office, a Court Party of office-holders, and supportive independents, and an opposition side of other political factions and independent MPs. Namier reached this conclusion by a methodology that revolutionised the writing of political history. He broadened it to discuss not merely the leading politicians but also the rank and file, the so-called counting of heads; and he deepened it by the use of such techniques as prosopography, the study of social and family connections.

Namier, who became Professor of Modern History at the University of Manchester in 1931, was one of the most influential historians of the twentieth century, for imitators and disciples sought to apply his interpretation of how political history should be written to earlier and later periods of British history, and to foreign countries. 'We are almost all Namierites now', wrote his most recent biographer (Linda Colley, Namier(1989), p. 101). In due course there was a reaction against the enthusiastic application of his methodology. Critics were rightly convinced that ideas and ideals formed part of political history, but wrongly claimed that the counting of heads necessarily implied the discounting of such considerations. The illogicality of that contention has been demonstrated by much recent scholarship.

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