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form of administration signifying government by the common consent of the people. To Locke and Hobbes and other 17th-century writers the term meant an organized political community similar to what is meant in the 20th cent. by the word state. Certain states of the United States are known as commonwealths (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky), and the federated states of Australia are known collectively as the Commonwealth of Australia. In the same collective sense, the now independent components of the former British Empire and Britain's remaining dependencies are described as the Commonwealth of NationsCommonwealth of Nations,
voluntary association of Great Britain and its dependencies, certain former British dependencies that are now sovereign states and their dependencies, and the associated states (states with full internal government but whose external relations are
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. The

Commonwealth in English history was the government set up by the victorious army power following the English civil war and the execution (1649) of King Charles I. The Commonwealth was dominated from the outset by Oliver CromwellCromwell, Oliver
, 1599–1658, lord protector of England. Parliamentary General

The son of a gentry family, he entered Cambridge in 1616 but probably left the next year.
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, who by the Instrument of Government (1653) was made lord protector of the Commonwealth. The subsequent government is usually known as the ProtectorateProtectorate,
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.
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, though the Commonwealth formally continued until Restoration in 1660.


1. the people of a state or nation viewed politically; body politic
2. a state or nation in which the people possess sovereignty; republic
3. the body politic organized for the general good


1. an association of sovereign states, almost all of which were at some time dependencies of the UK. All member states recognize the reigning British sovereign as Head of the Commonwealth
a. the republic that existed in Britain from 1649 to 1660
b. the part of this period up to 1653, when Cromwell became Protector
3. the official designation of Australia, four states of the US (Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia), and Puerto Rico
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