Author(s): Paul Lay
Paul Lay explores a year that fell within one of the least understood periods in British history - the Interregnum between the execution of Charles I and the restoration of Charles II - and reclaims it as one of the most politically exciting and culturally creative eras of European history. In 1657 popular political fervour was at its height, and new religious ideas and methods of government were being tested out. The poet John Milton held a government post (Secretary for Foreign Tongues), and the regime's concentration on military spending was transforming England into a nascent imperial power. Far from being the dreary Puritan society of royalist myth, the Interregnum was one of the most intellectually thrilling times in British history. This was the crucible in which modern British thought - inquiring, iconoclastic and creative - was forged, and it marked the foundation of modern British democracy: pluralistic, inclusive, and based on a people's charter to rule.
Paul Lay is editor of History Today. He sits on the advisory boards of the Institute of Historical Research and the History and Policy unit at KCL. His book, History Today and Tomorrow, will be published by Endeavour Press in Spring 2012.