English Attitudes to Europe in the Seventeenth Century

  • J. R. Jones


FOR most of the period from the death of Elizabeth until the Revolution of 1688 England’s role in Europe was that of a peripheral power. She exerted comparatively little direct influence, less for example than Sweden and Turkey, and her policies were inconsistent, changing almost as often and as violently as the internal politics of the country. Obviously internal instability was largely responsible for external powerlessness, but there were other important factors which I wish to examine here. Because of the lack of informed opinion old attitudes persisted long after changing circumstances had made them obsolete; the ‘Protestant’ attitude to foreign affairs, which was dominant during most of the century, is the clearest example. The limited resources at the disposal of the Crown, combined with its insistence that, as foreign affairs were exclusively a matter for the prerogative, Parliament had no right to participate in the formulation of policies, or to receive confidential information, usually meant that an effective or credible foreign policy was impossible because of poverty. In particular, parliamentary and popular opposition to the raising of an army frequently hamstrung offensive action, and fostered suspicion at home to the point of precipitating major crises — as in 1625–8, 1666–7, 1673–4, 1678 and 1697–1700.


Foreign Policy Foreign Affair United Province Dutch Republican English Attitude 
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Further Reading

1. Documents

  1. David Douglas, English Historical Documents VIII, ed. A. Browning (1953).Google Scholar
  2. Navy Records Society, especially Letters and Papers relating to the First Dutch War, ed. S. R. Gardiner and C. T. Atkinson, 6 vols (1899–1930).Google Scholar
  3. J. R. McCulloch (ed.), Early English Tracts on Commerce (reprinted, Cambridge, 1952).Google Scholar

2. Secondary Works

  1. Clark, Sir George: The Seventeenth Century, 3rd ed. (Oxford, 1960). Still the best survey of general aspects of seventeenth-century Europe.Google Scholar
  2. Stoye, J. W.: English Travellers Abroad, 1604–1667 (1952). An admirable account of the connections between England and Europe, on general cultural as well as on personal levels.Google Scholar
  3. Wilson, Charles: Profit and Power (1957). Stops short of the third Anglo-Dutch War. The same extremely rewarding approach could be used to interpret the commercial and foreign policies of the English Court after 1667.Google Scholar
  4. Bereford, John: The Godfather of Downing Street (1925). The only biography of Downing; a new one is overdue.Google Scholar
  5. Woodbridge, H. E.: Sir William Temple, the Man and his Work (New York, 1940). Concentrates on the literary side.Google Scholar
  6. Feiling, Sir Keith: British Foreign Policy, 1660–1672 (1930). Detailed and well documented.Google Scholar
  7. Davies, Godfrey: ‘The Control of British Foreign Policy by William III’, in Essays on the Later Stuarts (San Marino, 1958).Google Scholar
  8. Hartmann, C. H.: Charles II and Madame (1934) and Clifford of the Cabal (1937) are both documented, but the interpretation requires revision.Google Scholar
  9. Francis, A. D.: The Methuens and Portugal (1966). An important monograph based on much fresh research.Google Scholar
  10. Bachrach, A. G. H.: Sir Constantine Huygens and Britain (Leiden, 1962). The first volume of a definitive biography.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fulton, T. W.: The Sovereignty of the Seas (Edinburgh, 1911). Still authoritative on Anglo-Dutch disputes about territorial waters, the salute and fishery rights in the North Sea.Google Scholar
  12. Jones, J. R: Britain and Europe in the Seventeenth Century (1966). A brief survey.Google Scholar
  13. G. Ascoli, La Grande Bretagne devant l’opinion française (2 vols, Paris, 1930Google Scholar
  14. R. Murris, La Hollande et les Hollandais au XVII et au XVIII sièles vus par les Français (Paris, 1925)Google Scholar
  15. J. Ehrman’s The Navy in the War of William III (Cambridge, 1953).Google Scholar
  16. J. S. Bromleys penetrating study, ‘The French Privateering War, 1702–13’, in Historical Essays 1600–1750 presented to David Ogg, ed. H. E. Bell and R. L. Ollard (1963).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1968

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  • J. R. Jones

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