Charles II’s first and most important parliament sat for eighteen years without a general election, earning itself the sobriquet “Long.” In 1661 this parliament began in eager compliance with the new king. Gradually disillusioned by Charles’s maneuvers, however, its members came to demand more control of the economy, religion, and foreign policy, starting a struggle that led to the Exclusion crisis. This lively book is the first full study of this Restoration Parliament.
Using parliamentary diaries, newsletters, memoirs, letters from members of parliament, scofflaw pamphlets, and the king’s own speeches, Annabel Patterson describes this second Long Parliament in an innovative and challenging way, stressing that how its records were kept and circulated is an important part of the story. Because the parliamentary debates of this age were jealously guarded from public knowledge, unofficial sources of information flourished. Often these are more candid or colorful than official records. Eighteenth-century historians, especially if Whiggish, recycled many of them for posterity. The book, therefore, not only recovers a crucial period of parliamentary history, one that helps to explain the Glorious Revolution, it also opens a discussion about historiographical method.