Quick Take: England's revolutionary influence

The American Revolution was for the most part not a revolution as we understand the term today. While the Founding Fathers liked to LARP as restorers of the Roman Republic, and designed their Capitol to represent this, they were, in truth, English landed gentlemen, who presided over a very predictable, very English rebellion.

According to historian David Starkey, the American constitution is really the English constitution only slightly misunderstood through the lens of Montesquieu. The American Bill of Rights likewise is a replication of our own of 1689.

When you stop to think about it, the story sounds terribly familiar: the landed gentry rising up against a tax-happy Executive to establish a republic. It was a repeat of the English Civil War on American soil. America therefore was not “revolutionary” as we understand the term today, but a natural development in the long history of English liberty, stretching back to Magna Carta and beyond. As was much of the Enlightenment.

Even the French Revolution was in many respects a misunderstood attempt to be like England or England’s daughter, America. And think of all the subsequent revolutions France inspired.

Yet we associate all these upheavals, of the 18th and 19th centuries, with Neoclassicism. No doubt interest in Antiquity played a part - and such instances are usually where the revolutionaries went wrong.

And, like pretty much all European regimes throughout history, revolutionary governments liked to dress themselves in the mantle of Rome. But don’t let Classical influence obscure the huge contribution of England and its long history of freedom to these movements.

Don’t let anyone peddle you the “Little England” myth. There’s nothing little about her. English influence is everywhere, even in places it’s not obvious to look; even in the capitals of our rivals. England, I hazard to say, was the most important civilisation since Rome.