The English Civil War in Western History
Table of Contents
- Fundamental Conflicts
- Economic Conflicts
- Religious Conflicts
- Political Conflicts
- Prelude to War
- James I
- Charles I
- The Civil War
- The Trial and Execution of Charles I
- The Interregnum
- The Restoration
- Charles II
- James II
- The Glorious Revolution
- Reflections on the Founding of America
Democracy is a fleeting commodity. After its birth in Ancient Greece and its evolution into republicanism in Ancient Rome, it disappeared from the Western world. For a thousand years after the Fall of Rome, government in Europe was a competition between the Catholic Church, local feudal lords, and weak and local kings. Around 1500, political power began to consolidate into regional monarchies—the kings in Spain, France, and England. These became the first of what we know of today as nation states. But they were not democracies.
It wasn’t until the seventeenth century that democracy was reborn in the Western world. Its re-birth occurred in England as a result of the English Civil War. It was in this War that the forces of Parliament overturned the “divine right of kings.” Before the century was over, England would be governed by an entirely new form of government, a constitutional monarchy. Power was shared between an executive branch (monarchy) and a legislative branch (Parliament) with a set of rules for how the country would be governed—a constitution. This book explains how that transition came about.
It begins with a discussion of the fundamental conflicts that underlay the Civil War: economic; religious; and political. It examines the rulers and events that led up to war, and then the War itself. It looks in some detail at the trial and execution of Charles I in 1649 and their implications for the balance of power in government. It analyzes the Interregnum under the rule of Oliver Cromwell when both the monarchy and the House of Lords were abolished. It quickly peruses the Restoration of monarchy in 1660 and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It concludes with a reflection on the importance of the period and events to the founding of America.
These events were crucial to the transition in the Western World from political systems dominated by monarchy and divine right to systems centered in representation and constitutionalism. In fact, the importance of the Civil War, especially as they affected the creation of the United States and the nature of its government, is impossible to overstate. This is that story.