Men of Substance: A Study of the Thought of Two English Revolutionaries, Henry Parker and Henry Robinson

By W. K. Jordan | Go to book overview

VI
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC THOUGHT

1. INTRODUCTION

THE revolutionary decades in England were characterized by a ferment of discussion of social and economic problems which had hitherto been scantily treated or ignored. The era was germinal: the entire structure of modern social and economic thought was to be foreshadowed in at least rough outlines. Much of this discussion, as revealed in the hastily written pamphlets and memoranda of the revolutionary years, was extraordinarily fruitful, provocative, and, as time was to show, prophetic. These thinkers, of whom Robinson is perhaps the most important, were resolved that the attainment of political and religious freedom should be accompanied by the reform of social abuses and by the enlargement of economic opportunities for individual and nation alike. They were, on the whole, relatively conservative in politics, while their social and economic thought proceeded from the assumption that wealth, whether landed or mercantile, must undertake responsibilities which were essentially aristocratic. This group of theorists made notable and lasting contributions to that body of thought which lies at the foundation of the liberal polity.

On the whole, however, much of the economic and social literature of the period is undistinguished and unimpressive. Much of it ranges from the impracticable dreams of the visionary to the disordered gropings of the demented. In general, it may be suggested that the thought of the incendiary political groups--the Fifth Monarchy Men, the Levellers, the Diggers, and the more violent republicans--was quite as divorced from the economic realities of the age as it was from the political necessities of the period. Moreover, the economic and social thinking of the more radical sectaries, animated as it was by the vision of the Kingdom

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Men of Substance: A Study of the Thought of Two English Revolutionaries, Henry Parker and Henry Robinson
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • I - Introduction 1
  • II - Henry Parker (1604-1652): Antecedents And Life 9
  • III - Henry Robinson (1605-1673?): Antecedents And Life 38
  • IV - Religious Thought 67
  • V - Political Thought 140
  • VI - Social and Economic Thought 203
  • Bibliography 259
  • Index 267
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