By the early months of 1658, the young English republic was in crisis. Nine years earlier, after a decade of civil war and three years of famine, leaders in the New Model Army had, as the poet Andrew Marvell later put it, ruined ‘the great work of time, / And cast the kingdom old / Into another mould’. In early December 1648, frustrated by the ambiguities and hesitations of those negotiating with the defeated king, a detachment of soldiers purged Parliament of its most conservative MPs, opening the way for the hasty organisation of a High Court of Justice and the consequent trial of Charles I. As the king resisted the legitimacy of the court and refused to enter a plea, power passed to the more radical military and political leaders, as they became increasingly interested in exploring republican solutions to the political crisis. After multiple attempts to have Charles recognise the court by entering a plea, his judges found him guilty of treason. He was beheaded on 30 January 1649 outside Westminster Hall and, four months later, England was formally established as a republic.
This October marks 70 years since the overthrow of José Luis Bustamante y Rivero, a reform-minded Christian Democrat, first elected president of Peru in 1945. Bustamante’s victory was significant in many ways. Not only was it, arguably, the first truly democratic election in Peru’s history, but it produced a government formed without members of the established elites. Peru’s political and economic life had long been dominated by landed, commercial and military figures. The majority of Peru was subjected to a state akin to feudalism, a discriminatory electoral system that prevented most Peruvians from casting a ballot and land ownership restricted to a powerful oligarchy. In confronting social issues, they often employed a carrot-and-stick approach: undertaking welfarist schemes while suppressing civil rights and seeking to prevent the spread of popular politics. In the early 20th century such politics was represented most strongly by the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). Formed in 1924 to develop a socialist society for the benefit of Peru’s working class and historically exploited indigenous Indian population, APRA was viewed as a threat by the traditional elites and was outlawed.