The Exclusion crisis of 1678-1683, overshadowed by the Civil War, the English Revolution and the Revolution of 1688, has been undeservedly neglected by historians. Apart from a wealth of picturesque characters and incidents such as Titus Oates, the Popish Plot, the Mealtub and Rye House conspiracies, the crisis produced important political developments of lasting significance. Attention is concentrated on these developments in this study, the first examination of the subject to appear for many years. The author sets the crisis in its historical perspective as part of the protracted struggle between representative government and absolutism which ended with the fall of the Stuarts. There is a full examination of the political tactics and techniques which Shaftsbury developed and employed in constructing the new Whigs as an unprecedentedly formidable force. In analysing the composition, character and objectives of this force - the men for whom the title of Whig was first invented - important conclusions emerge. The first Whigs are shown to have been more highly organised and disciplined than any political groups before them, or in the eighteenth century, so that for them, it is argued, the term party would not be inappropriate. Above all, the magnitude and urgency of the issues involved in the crisis are emphasised, and their effects in moulding the character of the first Whigs explained.