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Updated Notes 2015 Civil Wars Notes

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Notes - Civil Wars Previous Questions: o

Can the civil wars be ascribed to the defects of a king?


How important was religion as a determinant of allegiance in the Civil Wars?


Were the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1641-1652) wars of religion?


Did the civil wars settle anything?


To what extent was the English Civil War caused by events in Charles I's other two kingdoms?


Did concerns about religion prolong the British Civil Wars?

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Archer's feedback o o o o o o o o

Unpack legal arguments (reflect on compartmentalised notes) Impact of religion and culture at a localised level (see case studies of local regions) Role of the 'middling sort' - bourgeois revolution?
Consider the nature of puritan discourse. To what degree is defeat in Scotland related to Charles's domestic difficulties in England? Make more of background tensions in Ireland (refer to Ben's essay). Role of non-cooperation in Scotland?
Conspiracy theories surrounding Charles's interaction with the Long Parliament?
How did the Grand Remonstrance divide? (Still support for divinely appointed role of the monarch - difficult to accept. But list of grievances polarised camps further; at least created SOME support for Charles) Ensure quotes and examples are used - additional 'texture'.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Introductory/general thoughts

In his old age, the antiquarian and gentleman scholar John Aubrey, looking back over his lifetime, would sorrowfully compare the sad state of things under Charles II with the way they had been 'before the civil wars'. o The Earl of Clarendon hoped in vain in the 1660s that the nation would somehow recapture its old 'good manners' and 'good nature'. o Others dwelt on the damage, physical and spiritual, suffered by the Church of England, on the proliferation of sects and the alleged growth of libertinism and 'atheism'. o The civil wars had been 'unnatural', had turned neighbour against neighbour and led to the execution of Charles I, seen in retrospect as 'the best of kings'.


Men disputed the causes of the civil wars - Hobbes blamed the puritan clergy and the universities - but there was widespread agreement that they had left English society more divided and more fragile.

In 1660, Charles II reclaimed his throne, and the position of the monarch reverted to that of 1641, rather than adhere to any of the more stringent legislation passed during the conflicts themselves. The Restoration period, then, could well be seen as testimony to the failure of the republican experiments borne from Civil War. o But - brought back by parliamentary consent. This would set the tone for future monarchs.

But much like the Restoration settlements of the 1660s, the political and religious fragmentation generated by Civil War seemed, ironically, to settle that no comprehensive settlement, appeasing the multiplicity of emerging sects and political demographics, could be achieved. o Parliament had affirmed in the Civil War that the unconstrained actions of the sovereign could justify his deposition. Civil liberties of the subject triumphed in the long-term over those of the ruler - in no small part a consequence of the achievements of Civil War.

Not an institutional legacy, but an intellectual one - Civil War provided the means for the justification of depositions: must uphold religion as by law established, main impetus for Parliament to take up arms against a sovereign. o Civil War failed to define the English revolution in institutional terms - this would take the events of 1688/9. But it did define it in intellectual terms.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Domestic failures and Charles I

Takes two sides to fight a war, and popular allegiances could be discerned on both sides - Root and Branch petitions (1640) clash with petitions in favour of episcopacy
- these were authentic popular voices, with genuine sentiment for Presbyterianism and episcopacy respectively. o Both have roots in the constitutional legacy of the nation. But the reason that such roots took shape in the first place necessitates a consideration of the man whose intransigence pushed the nation into war. o Religion as upheld by the beloved legal system was critical in motivating contemporaries to action - but it took the short-term catalyst of Charles and his actions to make it an issue deemed sufficiently dangerous to take up arms. o Conrad Russell: any notion of an English Civil War without him is 'almost impossible to imagine.

Charles I o o

In 1637 war could not be foreseen. Charles' experiment in personal rule was going well, and he had secured (albeit narrowly) his continued collection of ship money. But in order to preserve his royal prerogative, Charles needed to avoid undue expenses (especially those necessitated by war). He also needed to avoid calling a parliament, which would be a forum for deeply alienated elements


of the political nation who loathed his fiscal expedience and his Arminian policy in the Church. Such opposition needed to die down. In 1638, this began to collapse. Charles and Laud attempted to impose uniformity on the Scottish Church the year before, disrupting the fragile stability that had hitherto been maintained.

The origins of the Civil War, including the religious dimension in all three kingdoms, have in common that they were pushed to the precipice by Charles I and his determination to impose the royal prerogative at the expense of consensus and commonwealth.' o Inability to understand or negotiate with Parliament - consistently believed the actions of the polity were inimical to the desires of the sovereign, and as such were designed to undermine his prerogative. o Relative to this, Charles consistently exerted his prerogatives even when he could not justify their use (i.e. in extraordinary circumstances) o Viewed criticism as seditious. Distanced himself from the public practice of kingship, preferring to rule in private and by proclamation rather than in public and within a consensual parliamentary framework. o Forced loan typified this - Charles believed himself divinely entitled to finance, encourage by select counselling. Consent was replaced with compulsion, a development that was thoroughly alien and more importantly inimical to traditional English practices. The issuing of the Petition of Right (1628), which challenged royal justifications for a range of prerogatives such as ship money and religious innovations, saw nine protest leaders vindictively jailed.

He emphasised absolute obedience when consensus and negotiation was needed most, at a time when theories of resistance across Britain - by arms if necessary - were crystallising. o As Hughes has observed, Charles's policies 'did harm precisely because they dealt (in a ham-fisted way) with long-term structural problems which had been shelved or fudged in previous reigns.

Functional breakdown

Russell - 'functional breakdown' of government over the 1620s and 30s. o financial erosion and shifting socioeconomic conditions that created a gulf between Crown and Parliament, and the wider realm in whose interests both parties were obliged to act. o Charles insisted in 1629 that Parliament was the cause of the nation's grievances. It had demanded a war England could not fight, and then refused to pay for it. It took 'advantage of...our necessities', forcing the King to accept policies that would cripple his authority. o The subsequent period of the Personal Rule that arose from these failures of communication meant that by 1640, the articulation of the realm's grievances had been denied for a sufficiently long period to ensure that any scope for their airing would be characterised by aggression.

Structural weaknesses compounded by inflation and the threat of military revolution. Civil War was a reaction to Charles's attempt to rectify these weaknesses. o English monarchy weak in contrast to foreign counterparts. Dependent on ordinary income, lacked an extensive bureaucracy and an army. Cost of war had risen exorbitantly - Charles preparations against Spain in 1625 saw estimated costs of £1 million; in the decade of the Armada Elizabeth's wars had cost around

o o o

£165,000 per year. Even the true figure of £500,000 for Charles's war is staggering. Private individuals gained from exploiting procedures that would elsewhere be under the direct control of the Crown. What was the most detrimental consequence of this state of affairs? Attempts to reduce the costs of government were unpopular with courtiers and officials, and thus resisted. A vicious circle ensued. A regular parliamentary revenue was one means of bypassing the problem. But the Commons, too, was stubborn in its resistance - refusing taxation initiatives on the basis of the corruption and wastage that blighted the Stuart dynasty.

Link this to the practical failure of political administration in the localities. o For Russell, this was the most fundamental long-term cause of the breakdown of the 1620s and later in the 1640s. o Russell stresses the irresponsibility of Parliament in 1640 by refusing to provide the Crown with a secure revenue. Attempts to draw up a fixed sum for Charles in return for redress of grievances failed, not least because of Charles's refusal to accept limitations on his power. In this scenario, it was Charles who had most to gain by fighting a war. The King's attempt to achieve a financial base and freedom of action comparable to his foreign counterparts.

Parliament's justification for its actions stemmed from its view that the Stuarts did not use finance in a legally or constitutionally acceptable manner. James symbolised royal extravagance at its very worst. Continental land campaign to recover the Palatinate was seen as too expensive. o Fletcher - Commons had, by 1641, made strides in rectifying the functional breakdown of English government. Subsidies were voted more regularly, and a poll tax rushed through after barely two weeks in June 1641.


It was in the most dangerous and inflammatory areas of all, those of religion and political authority, where Charles was most inflexible. Resistance to the imposition of the Prayer Book in Scotland risked 'not only [his]
crowne, but [his] reputation', and so long as the Covenant was in force 'I have no more power in Scotland than as a Duke of Venice, which I will rather dye, than suffer.' (201) o As Russell has argued, whilst Charles was incompetent, he was not incompetent enough to avert civil war. o The depth of his ideological position made him a suitable leader in times of conflict in a way he could only dream of in times of peace. The irreconcilable gulf that had by now torn the realm asunder aided Charles in so much as it provided committed contemporaries to rally to his side - providing the means for a war to be fought. Charles was not the creator of the religious problem. o But he did exacerbate it enough to prompt fears for the future of the commonwealth, o This was true not only of England, but all of Britain. Charles ruled over three kingdoms, and within three years he faced armed resistance of them. All three were connected by the Crown's inability to acknowledge the consensual

framework and address grievances, and all three were also beginning to devise ideologies - whether religious or otherwise - that justified the deposition of a 'tyrannical' ruler. Under Charles, the probable became the certain, and the nation plunged into war.

With the Grand Remonstrance of 1641, a virtually united opposition to the king began to divide. The 19 Propositions were offered to the king in June the next year. o Charles replied that if he were to accept them, 'it would be the total subversion of the fundamental laws and excellent constitution of this kingdom', for 'parliament never was intended for any share of government, or the choosing of them that governed.' o Technically, he was right. But things had passed beyond what was, or was not, congruent with the ancient constitution that both sides continuously referred to. Both had subverted the ancient constitution they professed to revere, entering unchartered waters as a consequence of the pressure of events. o We must always remember how deeply interconnected all aspects of society were. It formed an organic whole, and as such one must accept the argument that the forces that would trigger the Civil War must have, in no small part, been created by the longer-term erosion of ideological, social and religious certainties. But C persists with policies that threatened to usher in arbitrary government and popery. That the King reiterated that he would rather die than accept concessions forced those who resisted him to take him at his word. o The King, acting against the interests of the commonwealth, broke the most fundamental contract of all. A framework that was tested by James was pushed to the brink by a stubborn monarch who time and time again refused to acknowledge anything beyond his own prerogative. Class?

We cannot look for the origins of the Civil War in Westminster alone. Within the wider polity too, gradual developments had made the climate more favourable to conflict. o Underdown - has linked social change to cultural tensions. A growing scepticism with regards traditional values and hierarchies had indeed become apparent as a long-term cultural development. o Related to such a thesis, and consequently requiring assessment, is the Marxist notion of a 'bourgeois revolution.' The economic positions of the ascendant gentry needed to be accommodated more accurately within the political framework, with the dynamics of an emergent capitalism dissolving old bonds of obligation and creating new ones founded on market principles. o Patron/client networks important - Pym does what Bedford tells him, etc. 12 peers have a greater income than Charles I (true?) They do have power/influence.
 But is it possible in this period to link economics so closely to politics and religion? Gentry on both sides.

Marxist historians such as Hill have asserted the notion of the Civil War not as a war of religion, but a 'bourgeois revolution.' o The economic positions of the ascendant gentry needed to be accommodated more accurately within the political framework, with the dynamics of an emergent capitalism dissolving old bonds of obligation and creating new ones founded on market principles. o Lucy Hutchinson - 'most of the Gentry of the country were disaffected to the Parliament. Most of the middle sort, the able substantial

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