Restoration, in English history, the reestablishment of the monarchy on the accession (1660) of Charles II after the collapse of the Commonwealth (see under commonwealth) and the Protectorate. The term is often used to refer to the entire period from 1660 to the fall of James II in 1688, and in English literature the Restoration period (often called the age of Dryden) is commonly viewed as extending from 1660 to the death of John Dryden in 1700.
Restoration of Charles II
After the death of Oliver Cromwell in Sept., 1658, the English republican experiment soon faltered. Cromwell's son and successor, Richard, was an ineffectual leader, and power quickly fell into the hands of the generals, chief among whom was George Monck, leader of the army of occupation in Scotland. In England a strong reaction had set in against Puritan supremacy and military control. When Monck marched on London with his army, opinion had already crystallized in favor of recalling the exiled king.
Monck recalled to the Rump Parliament the members who had been excluded by Pride's Purge in 1648; the reconvened body voted its own dissolution. The newly elected Convention Parliament, which met in the spring of 1660, was overtly royalist in sympathy. An emissary was sent to the Netherlands, and Charles was easily persuaded to issue the document known as the Declaration of Breda, promising an amnesty to the former enemies of the house of Stuart and guaranteeing religious toleration and payment of arrears in salary to the army. Charles accepted the subsequent invitation to return to England and landed at Dover on May 25, 1660, entering London amid rejoicing four days later.
Politics under Charles II and James II
Control of policy fell to Charles's inner circle of old Cavalier supporters, notably to Edward Hyde, 1st earl of Clarendon, who was eventually superseded by a group known as the Cabal. The last remnants of military republicanism, as exemplified in the Fifth Monarchy Men, were violently suppressed, and persecution spread to include the Quakers. The Cavalier Parliament, which assembled in 1661, restored a militant Anglicanism (see Clarendon Code), and Charles attempted, although cautiously, to reassert the old absolutist position of the earlier Stuarts.
The crown, however, was still dependent upon Parliament for its finances. The unwillingness of Charles and his successor, James II, to accept the implications of this dependency had some part in bringing about the deposition (1688) of James II, who was hated as a Roman Catholic as well as a suspected absolutist. The Glorious Revolution gave the throne to William III and Mary II.
England during the Restoration
The Restoration period was marked by an advance in colonization and overseas trade, by the Dutch Wars, by the great plague (1665) and the great fire of London (1666), by the birth of the Whig and Tory parties, and by the Popish Plot and other manifestations of anti-Catholicism. In literature perhaps the most outstanding result of the Restoration was the reopening of the theaters, which had been closed since 1642, and a consequent great revival of the drama (see English literature). The drama of the period was marked by brilliance of wit and by licentiousness, which may have been a reflection of the freeness of court manners. The last and greatest works of John Milton fall within the period but are not typical of it; the same is true of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678). The age is vividly brought to life in the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, and in poetry the Restoration is distinguished by the work of John Dryden and a number of other poets.
See A. Nicoll, A History of Restoration Drama (1923); B. Willey, The Seventeenth Century Background (1934); D. Ogg, England in the Reign of Charles II (2 vol., 2d ed. 1955); G. N. Clark, The Later Stuarts (2d ed. 1956); C. V. Wedgwood, Seventeenth-Century English Literature (2d ed. 1970).