LECTURE HANDOUT: ENGLISH CIVIL WAR & SETTLEMENT
1625 accession of Charles I
1629-40 Eleven Years of ‘Personal Rule’
1637 Charles imposes Prayer Book on Scots
1640 calling of Short Parliament (April) and Long Parliament (Nov.)
1642 1st civil war begins
1643 Parliament’s alliance with the Scots (Solemn League & Covenant)
1645 creation of New Model Army
1646 end of civil war; king surrenders to Scots (who sell him to Parliament)
1648 2nd civil war (King now supported by Scots and moderates- ‘Presbyterians’- but is
Dec 1648 army coup (‘Pride’s Purge’) leaves only radical ‘Rump’ of the Long
Parliament, which sets up a High Court to try the king.
Jan 1649 Charles beheaded; May 1649: England is declared a commonwealth
April 1653 army coup led by Cromwell: Rump ousted and replaced by a nominated
assembly (‘Barebone’s Parliament’, July-Dec. 1653)
Dec. 1653 Cromwell becomes Lord Protector
Sept 1658 Cromwell dies, succeeded by his son Richard
1659 army coup overthrows Richard, restores Rump; then overthrows Rump; near
1660 General Monck marches down from Scotland, restores full Long Parliament, which
restores the monarchy under Charles II (May)
Issues: Why did the English civil war break out? Why did Parliament win? Why was the
King executed? Why did the Parliamentary regime (‘the Commonwealth’) fail to take
root, allowing the Stuarts to be restored after Cromwell’s death?
Causes of the War: background factors: structural weaknesses of regime- crown
financially weak- no standing army- king dependent on co-operation of the landed
classes. Direct causes: 1) Financial grievances during the 11 Years of personal rule. 2)
Religion-Charles supports high-church ‘Laudianism’ (or ‘Arminianism’), widely seen as
a backdoor to ‘popery’. 3) Problem of Multiple Kingdoms- Charles king of England,
Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, each with a very different political and religious character.
Charles provokes a crisis in 1637 by imposing his religious policies on the Scots.
Civil War: Parliament’s victory based on 1) alliance with Scots- creates two fronts against
the royalists 2) support of London, which provides sound financial base 3) creation of
New Model Army, with committed leaders (Fairfax, Cromwell) and disciplined soldiery.
Post-War: all sides want a compromise settlement retaining the monarchy. Charles tries
to play off his enemies (Scots, English Parliamentary groups- Presbyterians and
Independents- and the Army) against each other, and stirs up 2nd civil war.
The Commonwealth, 1649-53: an interim settlement. The republic established for
pragmatic not ideological reasons; its energies taken up with crushing radical movements
(esp. Levellers), subduing Scotland, Ireland and the colonies, and forcing continental
powers to recognize it. Succeeds in all these goals.
Protectorate: Search for a Settlement. Cromwell wants to rule as head of a constitutional
regime, not as a military dictator. The Barebones experiment (1653) proves a disaster.
The Protectorate (1653-9) provides a civilian regime with a written constitution and
regular parliaments, but fails to win general support. Parliaments (1654-5, 1656-8) resent
his power; old royalists see him as a blood-stained regicide. Proposal to create new
monarchy with Cromwell as king, but abandoned in the face of army hostility and
Cromwell’s own doubts.
Restoration. Cromwell dies Sept. 1658. Regime dependent on his personality, and
collapses within months. Army stages new coup but has no viable proposals for a
settlement, and no leader of Cromwell’s stature. Near-collapse of government, late 1659
paves way for Monck’s entry and peaceful Restoration under Charles II, May 1660.