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The English Civil War Essay Sample

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The English Civil War Essay Sample


I have chosen to write this research report about the English Civil War, or the English revolution as it sometimes is referred to as. I wouldn’t say that I specifically in history, but I find it very important to know about the past when building the future. I didn’t know much about the revolution before this research. Not more than that it actually excised. I don’t think it’s something you study allot in English history, but something that is important. What I think is important to find out about a Civil War or a revolution is;

What were the causes of the war?
What were the effects of the war?
3. How does the war compare to other Civil Wars or revolutions such as the French revolution? Were there any specific people involved in
starting/ending the war?

I hope to find answers to all questions and much more and I wish you pleasant reading!

The Course of the English Civil War

I have found that the English Civil War was a unique historical event, but that it shared common elements with other revolutions such as the French Revolution.

In the sixteen forties, when the Civil War took place, England was one of the main powers in Europe. It was a constitutional monarchy and Charles I had been the King since 1625. The war was the result of a quarrel between the King and the English Parliament over the question of weather the King or Parliament should have the last word in governing the country.

After his unsuccessful attempt to arrest five members of Parliament on January 4 1642, Charles left London and both sides prepared for war. Both of the armies were of equal numbers, each around 13,000 men. The Royalists were superior in cavalry until the formation of Parliament’s New Model Army in 1645. However, Parliament held the richer South and East and controlled London, the majority of the ports, and the navy. Parliament could charge taxes. The King was dependent on his supporters generosity for ready money.

Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham in August 1642 and a number of inconclusive encounters followed. Although unchecked at Edgehill in October 1642, he abandoned an advance on London when confronted by a Parliamentary force at Turnham Green. He then withdrew to Oxford, which became his military headquarters. In 1643 the Royalists at Abwalton Moor won control of almost all Yorkshire on June 30. At the same time, Parliament was victorious at Winceby and took Lincoln. In the South-west there were Royalists victories at Lansdown and Broadway Down in July. Charles’s nephew, Prince Rupert, captured Bristol. After the inconclusive first Battle of Newbury, in September, both sides sought allies. Parliament in the Solemn League and Covenant bought Scottish military aid. The King made peace with the Irish, thereby freeing troops for deployment in Britain.

Despite the Parliamentary victory at Marston Moor on July 2, in general the Royalist operations of 1644 were the more successful. It was only in 1645, following the formation of the New Model Army that the war took a decisive turn. The last Royalist army was beaten at Langport on July 10. The Scots swept through the North of England, and Parliamentary forces through the South-west. The year 1646 saw the final disbandment of Royalist’s troops and the surrender of Oxford. The Scots handed Charles over as a prisoner to the Parliamentarians when they left England in January 1647. Charles was the tried and executed in January 1649. The year was 1651 when Charles II successfully ended the war after a followed second and third Civil War. The Civil War caused little loss of life of destruction of property. Politically its consequence was the establishment of the Commonwealth and Protectorate.

Time Line for the English Civil War

1642Beginning of the first Civil War
January 4 – Charles I unsuccessfully tied to arrest five members of Parliament
January 10 – Charles I left London and both sides prepared for war
August – Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham and a number of
inconclusive encounters followed
October 23 – Royalists were unchecked at Edgehill

1643June 30 – The Royalists at Abwalton Moor won control over almost all Yorkshire
July – Royalist victories at Lansdown and Broadway Down and Prince Rupert captured Bristol
September – First Battle of Newbury
October 11 – Parliament was victorious at Winceby and took Lincoln

1644Royalist operations were the more successful
July 2 – Parliamentary victory at Marston Moor
September 20 – Second Battle of Newbury which settled nothing

1645Formation of New Model Army
June 14 – Parliamentary victory at Naseby
July 10 – Last Royalist army was beaten at Langport
September 13 – The Marquess of Montrose was defeated at
Philiphaugh in Scotland

1646The year which saw the final disbandment of Royalist troops and the surrender of Oxford.

1647January – Charles I was handed over to the Parliamentarians as a prisoner by the Scots as they left England

1648Second Civil War started

1649January – Charles was tried and executed

Causes of the Revolution

The English Civil War was not a result of one single event or person, but was a combination of several factors which led to the events of 1642-49.

The various reasons that historians have given for the causes of the English Civil War indicate that there is no simple explanation. Some contemporaries observed that the nobility, gentry, and the poor people followed the King, whereas tradesmen, freeholders, and the middle class followed Parliament. Recent research, however, indicates that there were no important economic or social differences within the leadership of the two parties. About two-thirds of the nobles became royalists, almost three-fifths of the gentry became parliamentarians. The northern and western agricultural counties were predominantly royalist after traditional royal power. The clothmaking areas in the southeastern area accessible to European trade, were predominantly parliamentarian. These social causes explain why Parliament won control of the richer parts of England and Charles I got the poorer parts.

One of the political reasons for this conflict was Charles’s I unsuccessful attempt to arrest five members of Parliament, known as the Grand Remonstrance, on January 4, 1642. And perhaps the biggest problem, who should have the power in the country. In November 1640, Charles called the Long Parliament. It lasted from November 1640 to September 1641 and was led by John Pym. It passed laws making ship money illegal and abolishing the courts of Star Chamber and High Commission. The session also forced Charles to agree to call Parliament every three years, with the further provision that he could not dissolve it without its own consent which led to the Grand Remonstrance.

An economical reason for the war was that inflation forced up prices in all parts of Europe. It drastically reduced the value of the monarch’s income. The King also spent money lavishly, but Parliament refused to give him more. He responded by levying new import duties. In 1625, Parliament refused to grant Charles I tonnage and poundage (the customs duties that normally provided much of the monarch’s income). Charles forced property owners to lend him money and imprisoned those who refused. In 1628, Parliament passed the Petition of Right, forbidding the King to raise any taxes without its consent. In the 1630’s, he evaded the Petition by collecting ship money.

There were also many religious causes of the war. One of them were that for many years, a radical group within the Church of England, the Puritans, sought to do away with bishops and revise the Prayer book. Charles fought against them, working with a reactionary group of churchmen led by William Laud. He made Laud Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633. The puritans accused Charles and Laud of leaning towards Roman Catholicism. Charles’s wife, Henrietta Maria, was unpopular because she was Catholic and because she was the sister of Louis XIII of France. Laud was also unpopular because he encouraged Charles’s belief in the divine rights of kings.

As shown above, there were many complex reasons for the English Civil War. There were economical and political as well as social and religious causes. Some of the most important were; Charles’s attempt to capture five parliamentarians and Parliament’s law that Charles couldn’t dissolve Parliament without its own consent.

The role of Charles I

Charles I (1600 – 1649) was the son of James I. He became King of the Stuart House in 1625. He married a French princess, the sister of Louis XIII, Henrietta Maria. During his first four years as a King, he called three Parliaments and dissolved each one because the members would not submit to his commands. In 1628, he accepted the Petition of Right drawn up by the third Parliament. But he violated it by raising money unlawfully.

From 1629 to 1640, Charles ruled without Parliament. He tried to force Scotland to use English forms of worship, but in 1639 the Scots rebelled. Charles had to call Parliament to obtain the money he needed to fight the rebels. He dismissed one Parliament after three weeks, but had to summon another, the long Parliament. It met from 1640 to 1653, and held its last session in 1660. When the King tried to seize five parliamentary leaders in 1642, Civil War broke out.

As recent research has shown, Charles did not have the support of all the nobility, gentry, and clergy and the Puritans and the merchant class did not all support Parliament. Charles fled to Scotland, but the Scottish leaders turned him over to Parliament. Later, the army seized the King, but he escaped and made a secret agreement with the Scots. Charles was again seized by the army. He was convicted of treason by Parliament in 1649 and beheaded. He met is death bravely. England became Commonwealth, and later a Protectorate. Charles fought his most important battles on October 1642 in Edgehill and at Abwalton Moor on June 1643.

As proved above, Charles I was a major cause of the English Civil War. Maybe if he had had a little more understanding to Parliament, the war would not have had to happen. But since he was a strong believer in the divine rights of kings, it was probably not easy to accept this fact.

Effects of the Revolution

The Civil War had political effects rather than economical effects. England became a Commonwealth and a Protectorate. Cromwell made religion very strict and closed all Theaters and forbid music on Sundays. It was to have a major effect of ordinary peoples living and their social lives.

After Charles’s execution, England became a republic called the Commonwealth of England which was the main political effect. A committee of Parliament ruled the country. Cromwell ended the Commonwealth of England in 1653 by dismissing the Long Parliament. Cromwell then ruled under the Instrument of Government, a document prepared by his military officers. The document made England a Protectorate, with Cromwell as lord protector. Oliver Cromwell died in 1658, and his son, Richard, was named lord protector. But Richard could not handle the affairs of government. In addition, the people were dissatisfied with the Protectorate and wanted a monarchy again. George Munk, a general who had served under Cromwell, overthrew the government in 1660. A new Parliament, elected in 1660, restored the monarchy under Charles II, the son of Charles I.

The Puritans under Cromwell’s time closed Theatres, banned dancing and other pastimes which was the main social or religious effect. Strictest religious observances were demanded of the entire population, especially on Sundays. All graven images which could possibly be associated with Catholicism were destroyed. The loving craftsmanship of centuries was battered to fragments. Not an echo of music lingered in the bleak churches. Yet Cromwell had a vision of a better world. He preached, and put into practice, religious toleration – save for Catholics.

The dictatorship in England under Cromwell’s time didn’t work very well with the English tradition. Even though Richard took the power after Cromwell’s death in 1658, he had to leave as a lord protector the following year. England again became a monarchy and the Stuart House regained the throne in 1660. Parliament’s right of participation in decision-making was established.


How does the English Civil War compare to the French Revolution?

The English Civil War and the French Revolution were both alike and different in economical, political and religious ways. France and England were ruled by monarchs before both of the two revolutions. Charles I and Louis XVI were both monarchs. They both had strong believes in the divine rights of kings. One of the few differences between them was that Charles I was a constitutional monarch and Louis XVI was an absolute monarch. An other difference was that Charles was born Protestant and Louis was Catholic, but, when Charles married Henrietta Maria, he wanted to become catholic as well, which caused a conflict between English Parliament and Charles I.

Both Charles and Louis had inherited many problems from previous kings and were not very popular. In France it was the middle class or bourgeoisie which generated the revolution. This was not the case in England, where it was the conflict between the King and Parliament which caused the revolution. In England the Parliament had a strong historical position since the thirteenth century and was very experienced whereas the French didn’t have a stable and strong ruler such as a Parliament. England was one of the richer countries in Europe while France was bankrupt.

The main difference was in the final outcome of the revolution/Civil War. In France the country became a democracy over a longer period of time due to the influence of Napoleon, while in England the country became a Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell. Both countries set up new education systems and legal systems were reviewed. At the end of both revolutions, a military leader took control of the countries. About ten years after the English Civil War, England became a constitutional monarchy again after the population’s dissatisfaction with Richard Cromwell. Both of the monarchs were executed during the course of the revolutions.

Even though there are some major differences, it is clear that the two revolutions follow very similar patterns and may well have been linked in history even though the differ 150 years in history. A study for further research would be to see if one revolution led to the other.

Reference List

Collier’s Encyclopedia. (1985 ed.) v.9. Civil War, English.

Merit Students Encyclopedia. (1986 ed.) v.6. Civil War, English.

Microsoft Encarta ’95. (1994 ed.) English Revolution.

The New Encyclopedia Britannica. (1978 ed.) v.3. History of England, Civil War.

Russel, C. (Ed.) (1971). The Crises of Parliaments. London : Oxford University

Trevelyan, G.M. (1973). History of England. London : Longman

The World Book Encyclopedia. (1992 ed.) v.3,4. Civil War, English and History of England.

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