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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Not merely the abodes of the ancient civilised nations


VIII. Parliament of 1628. Petition of Right 566

IX. Assassination of Buckingham. Session of 1629 580

FIRST BOOK.

THE CHIEF CRISES IN THE EARLIER HISTORY OF ENGLAND.

As we turn over the pages of universal history, and follow the shifting course of events, we perceive almost at the first glance one comprehensive process of change going on, which, more than any other, governs the external fortunes of the world. Through long periods of time the historic life of the human race was active in Western Asia and in the lands bordering on the Mediterranean which look towards the East: there it laid the foundations of its higher culture. We may rightly regard as the greatest event that meets us in the whole course of authentic history, the fact that the seats of the predominant power and culture have been transplanted to the Western lands and the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Not merely the abodes of the ancient civilised nations, but even the capitals which were the medium of communication between East and West, have fallen into barbarism; even the great metropolis, from which first political, and then spiritual, dominion extended itself in both directions over widespread territories, has not maintained its rank. It was due to this tendency of things, combined with a certain

geographical cause, that neither could the medieval Empire attain its full development, nor the Papacy continue to subsist with unimpaired authority. From age to age the political and intellectual life of the world transferred itself ever more and more to the nations dwelling further West, especially since a new hemisphere was opened up to their impulses of activity and extension. So it was that the chief interests of the Pyrenean peninsula drew towards its ocean coasts; that there grew up on either side of the Channel which separates the Continent from Britain, the two great capitals in which modern activity is chiefly concentrated; that Northern Germany, together with the races which touch on the North Sea and the Baltic, developed a life and a system of their own; it is in these regions latterly that the universal spirit of the human race chiefly works out its task, and displays its activity in moulding states, creating ideas, and subjugating nature.

Yet this transmission, this transplanting, is not the work of a blind destiny. While civilisation in the East succumbed and died out before the advance of races incapable of culture, it was welcomed in the West by races possessing the requisite capacity, which by their inborn force gave it new forms and indestructible bases for its outward existence. Nor have the nations and kingdoms arisen each from its mother earth, as it were in obedience to some inward impulse of inevitable necessity, but amid constant assimilation and rejection, ever repeated wars to secure their future, and a ceaseless struggle with opposing elements that threatened their ruin.

The object of universal history is to place before our eyes the leading changes, and the conflicts of nations, together with their causes and results. Our purpose is to depict the history of one of the chief of the Western nations, the English, and that too in an age which decisively modified both its inner constitution and its outward position in the world, but it cannot be understood unless we first pourtray, with a few quick touches, the historical events under the influence of which it became civilised and great.


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