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Great Britain Rise as the Global Leader of the 18th Century

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When examining the bloody and often tumultuous history of Great Britain prior to their ascent to power, one would not have predicted that they would become the global leader of the 18th century. Prior to the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War, the Spanish and the Holy Roman Empire held much of the power in Europe. Only with the suppression of Catholicism and the development of national sovereignty did Great Britain have the opportunity to rise through the ranks. While much of continental Europe was seeking to strengthen their absolute monarchies and centralized style of governing, in the 17th and 18th centuries Great Britain was making significant political changes that reflected the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment. The first of the political philosophers was Thomas Hobbes who first introduced the idea that the monarch ruled not by “divine right” but through the consent of the people. This was a radical idea with ramifications that are reflected in the great changed Great Britain made to to their government in the 17th century. Through a series of two violent civil wars between the monarchy and Parliament and the bloodless civil war known as the Glorious Revolution, Parliament was granted the authority to, in essence, “check” the power of the monarchy. The internal shifts of power in Great Britain and the savvy foreign policy skills demonstrated by the British in much of the conflict happening in continental Europe can be credited with England’s rise to power.

By the Glorious Revolution of the 17th century, England was already miles ahead of their European brethren. William of Orange and his wife, Mary, took over the English throne after King James fled to France on the heels of his failed attempts to rul...

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...to govern their local towns and were therefore motivated to pay taxes that eventually led to the strong military force and navy that were steadily building due to economic prosperity. Sir Robert Walpole is thought of the first prime minister of Great Britain and while he was in power “the English state combined considerable military power with both religious and political liberty” (The Western Heritage p 381) because he allowed his opposition to openly criticize him and his policies.

Works Cited
Glorious Revolution." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 7 Feb. 2010 .

Hooker, Robert. "The European Enlightenment." The European Enlightenment. Washington State University, 6 June 1999. Web. 07 Feb. 2010. .

The Western Heritage. 10th ed. Vol. 2. Prentice Hall, 1999. Print.
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