An attempt to assess the part played by Puritan unrest in the causes of the English civil war

by Donald Ian Dowie

Institution: Rhodes University
Department: Faculty of Divinity, Divinity
Year: 1965
Keywords: England  – Church history  – 17th century.; Puritans  – England.; Great Britain  – History  – Puritan revolution, 1642-1660.; Great Britain  – History  – Civil War, 1642-1649
Record ID: 1571582
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10962/d1011414


The problem which confronts us at the outset, is the problem which has been facing historians for the past three hundred years: What were the causes of the English Civil War? What matters were responsible for the decisive split between Crown & Parliament into two distinct parties, and which ultimately led to civil war? Many theories and interpretations have been given. In this chapter, we will find that there are three major interpretations. The first is that it was a religious struggle - and so the Civil War became known as the 'Puritan Revolution'. The second is that it was a purely political conflict between the Crown and its Ministers, on the one hand, and the House of Commons, which had by then become the 'mirror' of the Puritan element in the country, on the other. And the third is that it was a class, or economic, war. Contemporary historians tended to regard it as a twofold struggle - a conflict over religion on the one hand, and the constitution on the other. It was they who coined the phrase 'Puritan Revolution'. This interpretation, however, has subsequently been challenged, in the light of the detailed research which has been conducted - especially in the field of economic history. And so the Civil War has been interpreted in terms of a social and economic conflict - it is said to be a class war. The social and economic factors have tended to become emphasized while the religious have been pushed into the background - often excluded altogether. It is my intention in this thesis, therefore, to assert once again the very real part played by religious matters in the origins of the English Civil War. Intro., p. 1.