Were the 1620s Critically Turbulent?

Important questions have been asked about the 1620s period with respect to issues of progress and crises. However, looking at the 1620s period many things and events happened and call for a critical analysis of an important question. Were the 1620s critically turbulent? Before answering this question, it is essential to look at the 1620s period as part of an age where progress was happening all over Europe. The period between 1500 and 1800 can be classified as a period of progress. This period began with Renaissance and ended with Enlightenment. However, the progress that was made in this period was not smooth. The progress was uneven both in space and time and this characterizes the 1620s period as a time of critical turbulence.

The sixteenth century represents a period where advance seemed general at first sight. This is because this period is a century of an almost universal progress and expansion in the entire Europe. However, a keen look reveals a deep crisis that affected most of the Europe in one way or the other. The 1620s period comes out as a distorting gap in the otherwise general gap.

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The population of England, for instance, was growing at a steady rate since the early sixteenth century. In 1600, the total population in England was about 4.1 million. The constant population growth had certain effects on England in the 1620s period. The first consequence that came up was the shortage of food that led to hunger, starvation and death. However, after this catastrophe, famine disappeared as agricultural production, better communication of credit lines and leveling of the population helped solve the problem, at least in England. Another consequence of population growth was price inflation. Food prices were extremely high during the 1620s while the wages that workers received were remarkably low. For the people who could not produce their own food, or produced food, but not enough for the families, they faced extreme difficulty during this time. This made the government adopt regulations that would control grain trade and provide local machinery and an administrative code that ensured that whenever grain production failed, the available stocks would be made available at the lowest extra cost to enable people afford to buy food.

The growing population also put a lot of pressure on jobs meaning that the 1620s period was characterized by massive underemployment especially in England. This is mainly because agriculture accounted for the major source of employment. However, this was not sufficient because it was seasonal. Problems of credit, supply, distribution and self-sufficiency were widespread during the 1620s, and characterized the period as a period of critical turbulence.

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The 1620s period saw the rise of Arminianism and Puritanism. The essence of Arminianism was a belief in the universality of God’s grace and the free will of all men in obtaining salvation. Arminians rejects the teachings put forth by Calvinism that taught that the world was divided into electing and reprobating a person that God had predestined to heaven or to hell. In contrast to Arminianism, Puritanism preached a message that was rooted in the Calvinist theology of grace. For instance, Christopher Hill, who was a Puritan, preached ideas that he saw to be of importance and were rooted in the main predestinarian principles. During the 1620s, Puritanism was refined to include Calvinism that had previously linked conformists to the leaders who had established the English Church, and the nonconformists to the leadership of the English Church. This led to a form of radicalism that had been unprecedented. The Arminians led by King Charles became the religious revolutionaries and were opposed by the conservative and counter-revolutionary Calvinists. The parliaments of 1621 and 1624 were highly responsible for the dearth of religious grievances. These parliaments linked issues of Godly reformation to allegations of corrupt practices by some ecclesiastical leaders. This led to the call for stricter recusancy laws to be formulated and enforced. Therefore, it can be clearly seen that even the religious atmosphere during the 1620s was faced by significant problems that was marred by political issues.

The 1620s political atmosphere was also turbulent. On December 3 1621, the House of Commons decided to submit a petition to King James that required him to opt for strict measures of laws against Catholic recusants. The House of Commons was discussing an issue that touched on foreign policy and its relation to war. This was a request that the King did not consider and thought it to be the work of some people in the House of Commons to debate on issues that were above their control. This issue brought about a political crisis that led to the dissolution of the parliament. The King considered this petition as a dishonor, and a challenge to his royal authority. This issue points to the fact that the Commons were committing an act of constitutional impropriety. It is tied to the notion that the House of Commons was not supposed to debate issues of foreign policy at all. In this issue, it is important to mention three aspects that made it a crisis for England in the 1620s. First, the members of the House of Commons were guilty of encroachment in discussing war and foreign policy. Secondly, the type of war that they were discussing was an issue of great importance. The House of Commons was trying to magnify a local war of the recovery of the palatinate into a war against Spain. They were trying to determine the type of war, how it would be conducted and the purpose of the war itself. This was an encroachment and deprivation of the King’s power in the control of foreign policy. The third issue that came up was the introduction of the prince marriage. The three issues are separate and all held different consequences not only to the House of Commons and the King, but also to the whole country.

In the 1620s, England was faced with economic crises. This was contributed to by the Cockayne Project of 1614-1617 that was meant to transform the English wool industry so that cloth would be made in England instead of the Netherlands. This failed and severely destroyed the cloth industry in England. Bad weather also led to insignificant harvests in 1621 and 1622. An outbreak of plague spread in England in 1625 as parliament was sitting. This led to the temporary suspension of parliament that made it a problem for King Charles to run the country but also go to war judging by the fact that the parliament refused to give him adequate money when it resumed in August of the same year. Charles’ decision to dissolve the parliament and position taken by parliament led to another grievance that disrupted the future relations and made it difficult for the King and the parliament to run the country.

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In conclusion, considering the parliament’s and the House of Commons’ actions, the growth of populations, food crises, underemployment, and plague outbreak and the religious wars and crises, it is evident that the 1620s period was critically turbulent despite the fact that it was in the wider period of progression and transformation.

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