KISELEV A.A. “Trickster” and “Republican”: Robert Harley’s Political Career in the 1690s


Kiselev Aleksandr Aleksandrovich

Candidate of Sciences (History), Consultant,

Committee of International and Regional Relations of Volgograd Administration

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Tsiolkovskogo St., 6, 400001 Volgograd, Russian Federation

Abstract. Despite the fact that Robert Harley is known as Tory politician, he began his career as a Whig politician. His grandfather and father were Presbyterians, and Robert Harley himself was a Presbyterian during his entire life. Harley’s family supported the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In 1689 Robert Harley was first elected to the House of Commons as a representative of the Whig party. Thanks to his wife’s Foley family, Robert Harley was elected as a commissioner of public accounts in the House of Commons. In 1689 Britain entered the “war of King William” which was a burden for many gentry (Whigs or Tories). Robert Harley became famous in the parliament as a critic of the war and corruption in the army. In 1693 the Whig leaders headed the ministry and continued the war. Their policy divided the Whigs party in two factions: “Court Whigs” and “Country Whigs”. Robert Harley and his supporters became “Country Whigs”, and they criticized the “Court Whigs”. By 1700 Robert Harley joined the Tory party.

The article also describes the evolution of historiography of Harley‘s policy. Victorian historians have called the Prime Minister a “stupid person”. The same opinion was repeated by Russian historians of the 19th century. But in the 20th century the assessment of Robert Harley’s activity was changed by the works of K. Feiling, G. Holmes, B.W. Hill and other historians. Soviet historians (for example M.A. Barg) also called R.Harley a “mediocre politician”, but modern Russian historians (L.I. Ivonina, T.L. Labutina and others) consider him a “clever statesman” and a “master of political intrigues and parliamentary diplomacy”.

Key words: England, Glorious Revolution, Whigs, Tory, parliamentarism, Harley, Foley.

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“Trickster” and “Republican”: Robert Harley’s Political Career in the 1690s by Kiselev A.A.  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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