Sunday, 23 January 2011
Some Small Thoughts on Guizot’s Why the English Revolution was Successful.
Guizot was a bourgeois politician turned writer/historian. He starts his small book on the English revolution with an admission that he thought the whole thing was a “mysterious experiment’s therefore makes up front that he has no intention of uncovering the underlying socio-economic causes of the English revolution. He portrays the revolution as a religious matter.
According to Marx “the fact that the English Revolution developed more successfully than the French can be attributed, according to M. Guizot, to two factors: first, that the English Revolution had a thoroughly religious character, and hence in no way broke with all past traditions; and second, that from the very beginning it was not destructive but constructive, Parliament defending the old existing laws against encroachment by the crown”.
He refuses also to make a connection between the rise of protestant religion and its connection with the rise of a new capitalist class. When he waxes lyrically about the “spirit of revolution” he exhibits a close similarity with Hegel’s writing contained in his Philosophy of History. Guizot's writing contains a very idealist way of seeing historical events.
On page two Guizot shows the somewhat limited nature of his thought when he makes the point that he thought that he did not think that the revolution was underpinned by the pursuit of “ infinite, but yet unknown of human thought”.
He says nothing of the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, or the poetry of Milton and Marvel. The writings of the Levellers are not touched. The English revolution took place in a cauldron of ideas about democracy social inequality, freedom of conscience. Where did these all come from? It cannot be that they were all just an expression of religious differences which seems to be Guizot’s main argument.
According to Karl Marx in regard to the first point, "M. Guizot seems to have forgotten that the free-thinking philosophy which makes him shudder so terribly when he sees it in the French Revolution was imported to France from no other country than England.
Its father was Locke, and in Shaftesbury and Bolingbroke it had already achieved that ingenious form which later found such a brilliant development in France, We thus arrive at the strange conclusion that the same free-thinking philosophy which, according to M. Guizot, wrecked the French Revolution, was one of the most essential products of the religious English Revolution”.