Protectorate, in English history, name given to the English government from 1653 to 1659. Following the English civil war and the execution of Charles I, England was declared (1649) a commonwealth under the rule of the Rump Parliament. In 1653, however, Oliver Cromwell dissolved the Rump, replacing it with the Nominated, or Barebone's, Parliament (see Barebone, Praise-God), and when the latter proved ineffectual, he accepted (Dec., 1653) the constitutional document entitled the Instrument of Government, which had been drawn up by a group of army officers. By its terms, Cromwell assumed the title lord protector of the commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland and agreed to share his power with a council of state and a Parliament of one house. However, although Parliament met regularly, Cromwell's protectorate was a virtual dictatorship resting on the power of the army. After a royalist uprising, he divided (1655) the country into 11 military districts, each under the administration of a major general who enforced the rigidly puritanical laws and collected taxes. Toleration was extended to Jews and all non-Anglican Protestants, but not to Roman Catholics. In 1654, the first of the Dutch Wars was brought to a close and English sea power turned against Spain. In the Humble Petition and Advice of 1657, Parliament offered Cromwell the throne (which he refused), allowed him to name a successor, and set up an upper house to be chosen by him; but this attempt at constitutional revision had little practical effect on the government. Richard Cromwell succeeded as lord protector on the death of his father in 1658, but he was unable to control the army and resigned in May, 1659. The Rump was recalled and the Commonwealth resumed, and after a period of chaos Gen. George Monck recalled the Long Parliament and brought about the Restoration of Charles II.
See S. R. Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate (4 vol., 1903, repr. 1965); C. Firth, The Last Years of the Protectorate (2 vol., 1909; repr. 1964); I. Roots, Commonwealth and Protectorate: The English Civil War and Its Aftermath (1966).
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