English Civil War

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civil war, English:

see English civil warEnglish civil war,
1642–48, the conflict between King Charles I of England and a large body of his subjects, generally called the "parliamentarians," that culminated in the defeat and execution of the king and the establishment of a republican commonwealth.
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English civil war,

1642–48, the conflict between King Charles ICharles I,
1600–1649, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1625–49), second son of James I and Anne of Denmark. Early Life

He became heir to the throne on the death of his older brother Henry in 1612 and was made prince of Wales in 1616.
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 of England and a large body of his subjects, generally called the "parliamentarians," that culminated in the defeat and execution of the king and the establishment of a republican commonwealthcommonwealth,
form of administration signifying government by the common consent of the people. To Locke and Hobbes and other 17th-century writers the term meant an organized political community similar to what is now meant by the word state.
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The Nature of the Struggle

The struggle has also been called the Puritan Revolution because the religious complexion of the king's opponents was prevailingly Puritan, and because the defeat of the king was accompanied by the abolition of episcopacy. That name, however, overemphasizes the religious element at the expense of the constitutional issues and the underlying social and economic factors. Most simply stated, the constitutional issue was one between a king who claimed to rule by divine right and a Parliament that professed itself to have rights and privileges independent of the crown and that ultimately, by its actions, claimed real sovereignty.

Parliament in this period did not represent the full body of the English people; it was composed of and represented the nobility, country gentry, and merchants and artisans. The 16th cent. had seen a decline in the influence of the nobility and a striking rise in the numbers, wealth, and influence of the gentry and merchants, the beneficiaries of a tremendous expansion of markets and trade in Tudor times. It was from this middle class of gentry and merchants that the opposition to the crown drew most of its members. Their ambition to do away with financial and commercial restrictions and their desire to have a say in such matters as religious and foreign policies had been severely restrained by the Tudors, but on the accession (1603) of a Scottish king to the English throne the popular party began to organize its strength.

The Rise of the Opposition

Under James I

James IJames I,
1566–1625, king of England (1603–25) and, as James VI, of Scotland (1567–1625). James's reign witnessed the beginnings of English colonization in North America (Jamestown was founded in 1607) and the plantation of Scottish settlers in Ulster.
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 was not long in gaining a personal unpopularity that helped to strengthen Parliament's hand. At the Hampton Court Conference (1604) he resolutely refused to compromise with Puritans on religious questions. The Parliament that met in 1604 soon clashed with the king on questions of finance and supply. James was forced to temporize because of his urgent need of money, but the dissolution of the Parliament in 1610 left feelings of bitterness on both sides.

A new Parliament met in 1614, and the Commons engaged in quarrels not only with the king but also with the House of Lords. Because it passed not a single statute, this was called the Addled Parliament. James had little understanding of the popular unrest and aroused deeper opposition by his continued collection of impositions and benevolences, his dependence on favorites, and his scheme of a Spanish marriage for his son Charles.

Meanwhile a legal battle was being waged in the courts, with Sir Francis BaconBacon, Francis,
1561–1626, English philosopher, essayist, and statesman, b. London, educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and at Gray's Inn. He was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, lord keeper to Queen Elizabeth I.
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 zealously upholding the royal prerogative and Sir Edward CokeCoke, Sir Edward
, 1552–1634, English jurist, one of the most eminent in the history of English law. He entered Parliament in 1589 and rose rapidly, becoming solicitor general and speaker of the House of Commons. In 1593 he was made attorney general.
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 defending the supremacy of common law. The king dismissed Coke from the bench in 1616, but the Parliament of 1621 impeached Bacon. The last Parliament (1624) of the reign accompanied its grant of money with specific directions for its use. James's reign had raised certain fundamental questions concerning the privileges of Parliament, claimed by that body as their legal right and regarded by James as a special grant from the crown.

Under Charles I

Charles I, married to a French Roman Catholic princess, Henrietta Maria, proved more intractable and even less acceptable to the Puritan taste than his father, and Parliament became even more uncompromising in the new reign. The leaders of the parliamentary party—Coke, John PymPym, John
, 1583?–1643, English statesman. A Puritan opposed equally to Roman Catholicism and to Arminianism in the Anglican church, Pym early became prominent in the parliamentary opposition to Charles I.
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, Sir John EliotEliot, Sir John,
1592–1632, English parliamentary leader. He was a staunch defender of parliamentary liberties. Eliot instituted (1626) the impeachment proceedings against Charles I's favorite, the 1st duke of Buckingham, and joined Sir Edward Coke and others in promoting
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, and John SeldenSelden, John,
1584–1654, English jurist and scholar. He studied at Oxford, was called to the bar in 1612, and was elected to Parliament in 1623. He had already assisted in preparing the protestation of Commons in 1621, asserting to King James I Parliament's rights in the
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—sought ways to limit the powers of the king. The Parliament of 1625 granted him the right to collect tonnage and poundage (customs duties) only for a year and not, as was customary, for his entire reign. The Parliament of 1626 went further and impeached the king's favorite, George Villiers, 1st duke of BuckinghamBuckingham, George Villiers, 1st duke of
, 1592–1628, English courtier and royal favorite. He arrived (1614) at the English court as James I was tiring of his favorite, Robert Carr, earl of Somerset.
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. Charles dissolved it in anger.

Failing to raise money without Parliament, he was forced to call a new one in 1628. The new Parliament drew up the Petition of RightPetition of Right,
1628, a statement of civil liberties sent by the English Parliament to Charles I. Refusal by Parliament to finance the king's unpopular foreign policy had caused his government to exact forced loans and to quarter troops in subjects' houses as an economy
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, and Charles accepted it in order to get his subsidy. He continued to levy customs duties, an act that the parliamentarians declared illegal under the Petition of Right. Parliament in 1629 vigorously protested Charles's collection of tonnage and poundage and the prosecution of his opponents in the Star ChamberStar Chamber,
ancient meeting place of the king of England's councilors in the palace of Westminster in London, so called because of stars painted on the ceiling. The court of the Star Chamber developed from the judicial proceedings traditionally carried out by the king and his
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. The religious issue also came up, and Commons resisted the king's order to adjourn by forcing the speaker to remain in his chair while Eliot presented resolutions against "popery" and unauthorized taxation.

In the succeeding 11 years Charles attempted to rule without a Parliament, resorting to such expedients as ship money (a tax levied originally on seaports but extended by Charles to the entire country) to raise revenue. The reprisals against Eliot and the prosecution of William PrynnePrynne, William
, 1600–1669, English political figure and Puritan pamphleteer. Beginning his attacks on Arminian doctrine in 1627, he soon earned the enmity of William Laud.
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 and John HampdenHampden, John
, 1594–1643, English parliamentary leader; cousin of Oliver Cromwell. He entered Parliament in 1621, became closely associated with Sir John Eliot, and was imprisoned (1627) for refusing to pay the forced loan demanded by Charles I.
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 aroused widespread indignation. Charles's chief advisers, Archbishop William LaudLaud, William,
1573–1645, archbishop of Canterbury (1633–45). He studied at St. John's College, Oxford, and was ordained a priest in 1601. From the beginning Laud showed his hostility to Puritanism. He became president of St.
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 and Thomas Wentworth, later 1st earl of StraffordStrafford, Thomas Wentworth, 1st earl of,
1593–1641, English statesman. Regularly elected to Parliament from 1614 on, he became one of the critics of George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham, and of the war with
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, were cordially detested.

The ominous peace was broken by troubles in Scotland, where efforts to enforce Anglican episcopal policy led to the violent opposition of the CovenantersCovenanters
, in Scottish history, groups of Presbyterians bound by oath to sustain each other in the defense of their religion. The first formal Covenant was signed in 1557, signaling the beginning of the Protestant effort to seize power in Scotland.
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 and to war in 1639 (see Bishops' WarsBishops' Wars,
two brief campaigns (1639 and 1640) of the Scots against Charles I of England. When Charles attempted to strengthen episcopacy in Scotland by imposing (1637) the English Book of Common Prayer, the Scots countered by pledging themselves in the National Covenant
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) and compelled Charles to seek the financial aid of Parliament. The resulting Short Parliament (1640) once more met the king's request for supply by a demand for redress of grievance. Charles offered to abandon ship money exactions, but the opposition wished to discuss more fundamental issues, and the king dissolved the Parliament in just three weeks.

The Long Parliament

The disasters of the second Scottish war compelled a virtual surrender by the king to the opposition, and the Long Parliament was summoned (Nov., 1640). The parliamentarians quickly enacted a series of measures designed to sweep away what they regarded as the encroachments of despotic monarchy. Those imprisoned by the Star Chamber were freed. A Triennial Act provided that no more than three years should elapse between sessions of Parliament, while another act prohibited the dissolution of Parliament without its own consent. Ship money and tonnage and poundage without parliamentary authorization were abolished. Strafford was impeached, then attainted and executed (1641) for treason; Laud was impeached and imprisoned. Star Chamber and other prerogative and episcopal courts were swept away. However, discussions on church reform along Puritan lines produced considerable disagreement, especially between the Commons and Lords.

Despite the king's compliance to the will of the opposition thus far, he was not trusted by the parliamentary party. This distrust was given sharp focus by the outbreak (Oct., 1641) of a rebellion against English rule in Ireland; an army was needed to suppress the rebellion, but the parliamentarians feared that the king might use it against them. Led by John Pym, Parliament adopted the Grand Remonstrance, reciting the evils of Charles's reign and demanding church reform and parliamentary control over the army and over the appointment of royal ministers. The radicalism of these demands split the parliamentary party and drove many of the moderates to the royalist side. This encouraged Charles to assert himself, and in Jan., 1642, he attempted to arrest in person Pym and four other leaders of the opposition in Commons. His action made civil war inevitable.

In the lull that followed, both Parliament and the king sought to secure fortresses, arsenals, and popular support. In June, 1642, Parliament sent to the king a statement reiterating the demands of the Grand Remonstrance, but since the proposals amounted to a complete surrender of sovereignty by the crown to Parliament, the king did not even consider them as a basis for discussion. Armed forces (including many peers from the House of Lords and a sizable minority of Commons) gathered about him in the north. Parliament organized its own army and appointed Robert Devereux, 3d earl of EssexEssex, Robert Devereux, 3d earl of,
1591–1646, English parliamentary general; son of Robert Devereux, 2d earl of Essex.
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, to head it. On Aug. 22, 1642, Charles raised his standard at Nottingham.

The First Civil War

The followers of king and Parliament did not represent two absolutely distinct social groups, as the popular conception of the royalist Cavaliers and the parliamentary Roundheads would indicate. However, it is true that the parliamentary, or Puritan, group drew much of its strength from the gentry and from the merchant classes and artisans of London, Norwich, Hull, Plymouth, and Gloucester; it centered in the southeastern counties and had control of the fleet. The majority of the great nobles followed the king, who had the support of most Anglicans and Roman Catholics; geographically the royalist strength centered in the north and west.

The first major engagement of the armies at Edgehill (Oct. 23, 1642) was a drawn battle. Charles then established himself at Oxford. The royalist forces gained ground in the north and west, although repeated attempts by the king to advance on London proved abortive. The indecisive engagements of 1643 were remarkable mainly for the emergence of Oliver CromwellCromwell, Oliver
, 1599–1658, lord protector of England. Parliamentary General

The son of a gentry family, he entered Cambridge in 1616 but probably left the next year.
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, an inconspicuous member of the Long Parliament, to military prominence with his own regiment of "godly" men, soon to become famous as the Ironsides.

Futile negotiations for peace had been conducted at Oxford early in 1643, and in Sept., 1643, Parliament took a decisive step by securing the alliance of the Presbyterian Scots in accepting the Solemn League and Covenant. Scottish aid was obtained only by a promise to submit England to Presbyterianism, which was soon to produce a reaction from the Independents and other sectarians (particularly in the army) who opposed the idea of any centralized national church.

The war now entered a new phase. A Scottish army, under Alexander Leslie, 1st earl of LevenLeven, Alexander Leslie, 1st earl of
, 1580?–1661, Scottish general. He served in the Swedish army some 30 years, being knighted by Gustavus II and fighting in the Thirty Years War.
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, advanced into Yorkshire early in 1644 and gave aid to the parliamentary army in the north. Charles's nephew, the brilliant and dashing Prince RupertRupert, Prince,
1619–82, count palatine of the Rhine. Born in Prague, he was the son of Frederick the Winter King, elector palatine and king of Bohemia, and Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England. Rupert grew up in the Netherlands and studied at Leiden.
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, did something to stem royalist losses by retaking Newark, but his gains were temporary. His campaign to relieve the besieged York led to the battle of Marston Moor (July 2, 1644), in which Cromwell and Leslie inflicted a crushing defeat on the royalists. Charles managed to cut off Essex in the southwest but shortly thereafter met parliamentary troops from the north in an indecisive engagement at Newbury.

To stem the rising dissension among parliamentary leaders, Cromwell sponsored in Parliament the Self-Denying Ordinance, by which all members of Parliament were compelled to resign their commands, and the parliamentary army was reorganized (1644–45) into the New Model Army. Thomas Fairfax (later 3d Baron Fairfax of CameronFairfax of Cameron, Thomas Fairfax, 3d Baron,
1612–71, English general. He was the son of Ferdinando Fairfax, 2d Baron Fairfax of Cameron (1584–1648), whose title he inherited and under whom he fought in the
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) became the commander in chief.

After further futile peace negotiations at Uxbridge, Charles, hoping to join the forces under James Graham, marquess of MontroseMontrose, James Graham, 5th earl and 1st marquess of
, 1612–50, Scottish nobleman and soldier.
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, moved north and stormed Leicester. He met Cromwell in a sharp battle at Naseby (June 14, 1645). This battle cost the king a large part of his army and rendered the royalist cause hopeless. Unable to join Montrose (who was defeated by Leslie in Scotland) and thwarted in his attempts to secure aid from Ireland or the Continent, the king was unable to halt the steady losses of his party and finally was compelled to surrender himself to the Scots, who made him reassuring but vague promises. The first civil war came to an end when Oxford surrendered in June, 1646.

The Second Civil War and Its Aftermath

The king was delivered (1647) by the Scots into the hands of Parliament, but the Presbyterian rule in that body had thoroughly alienated the army. The army resisted Parliament's proposal to disband it by capturing the king from the parliamentary party and marching on London. Army discontent gradually became more radical (see LevelersLevelers
or Levellers,
English Puritan sect active at the time of the English civil war. The name was apparently applied to them in 1647, in derision of their beliefs in equality. The leader of the movement and its most indefatigable propagandist was John Lilburne.
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), and the desire grew to dispose of the king altogether.

Refusing to accept the army council's proposals for peace (the Heads of the Proposals), Charles escaped in Nov., 1647, and took refuge on the Isle of Wight, where he negotiated simultaneously with Parliament and the Scots. In Dec., 1647, he concluded an agreement with the Scots known as the Engagement, by which he agreed to accept Presbyterianism in return for military support. In the spring of 1648, the second civil war began. Uprisings in Wales, Kent, and Essex were all suppressed by the parliamentary forces, and Cromwell defeated the Scots at Preston (Aug. 17, 1648). Charles's hopes of aid from France or Ireland proved vain, and the war was quickly over.

Parliament again tried to reach some agreement with the king, but the army, now completely under Cromwell's domination, disposed of its enemies in Parliament by Pride's Purge (Dec., 1648; see under Pride, ThomasPride, Thomas,
d. 1658, English parliamentary soldier in the English civil war. In Dec., 1648, acting on the orders of the army council, he carried out Pride's Purge,
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). The legislative remnant known as the Rump Parliament erected a high court of justice, which tried the king for treason and found him guilty. Charles was beheaded on Jan. 30, 1649, and the republic known as the Commonwealth was set up, governed by the Rump Parliament (without the House of Lords) and by an executive council of state.

Charles I's son Charles IICharles II,
1630–85, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1660–85), eldest surviving son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. Early Life

Prince of Wales at the time of the English civil war, Charles was sent (1645) to the W of England with his council,
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 was recognized as king in parts of Ireland and in Scotland but was forced to flee to the Continent after his defeat at Worcester (1651). The years of the interregnum, under the Commonwealth to 1653 and the ProtectorateProtectorate,
in English history, name given to the English government from 1653 to 1659. Following the English civil war and the execution of Charles I, England was declared (1649) a commonwealth under the rule of the Rump Parliament.
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 after that, are largely the story of Oliver Cromwell's personal rule, which was marked by strict military administration and enforcement of the Puritan moral code. After his death and the short-lived rule of his son, Richard CromwellCromwell, Richard,
1626–1712, lord protector of England; third son of Oliver Cromwell. He was the eldest surviving son at the death of his father (Sept. 3, 1658), who had nominated him as his successor.
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, the Commonwealth was revived for a brief and chaotic period. It ended in 1660 with the RestorationRestoration,
in English history, the reestablishment of the monarchy on the accession (1660) of Charles II after the collapse of the Commonwealth (see under commonwealth) and the Protectorate.
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 of Charles II. Although some of the changes brought about by the war were swept away (e.g., in the restoration of Anglicanism as the state church), the settlement of the contest between the king and Parliament was permanently assured in the Glorious RevolutionGlorious Revolution,
in English history, the events of 1688–89 that resulted in the deposition of James II and the accession of William III and Mary II to the English throne. It is also called the Bloodless Revolution.
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 of 1688.


The standard works on the period of the war are by S. R. Gardiner. See also C. V. Wedgwood, The King's Peace, 1637–1641 (1955) and The King's War, 1641–1647 (1958); A. H. Burne and P. Young, The Great Civil War, a Military History (1959); G. Davies, The Early Stuarts (2d ed. 1959); J. E. C. Hill, Puritanism and Revolution (1958) and The Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution (1965); I. A. Roots, The Great Rebellion, 1642–1660 (1968).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

English Civil War


(in Russian, the English Bourgeois Revolution of the 17th century), a victorious bourgeois revolution which led to the consolidation of capitalism and the establishment of a bourgeois system in England; one of the early bourgeois revolutions. The first revolution of European scope, it ushered in the era of the decline of the feudal structure in Europe, initiating the replacement of the feudal structure by the capitalist structure.

By the middle of the 17th century, England had achieved significant success in the development of industry and trade. The development of new forms of production—capitalist manufacturing (mainly scattered)—was the basis of the country’s economic progress. However, the system of industrial monopolies cultivated by the Stuart kings, in addition to guild regulation which held sway in the cities, narrowed the field of activity for the manufacturing entrepreneurs. The principle of free competition and free enterprise thus became one of the bourgeoisie’s main demands in the revolution. The early penetration of capitalist elements into the countryside led to the development of capitalist renting and the appearance of classes of capitalist tenants on the one hand and rural hired farm laborers on the other. The English nobility split into two groups, one of which—the “new nobility”— adjusted to the conditions of capitalist production and made an alliance with the bourgeoisie. Peasant ownership in England was threatened with extinction; the liberation of the copyhold and its transformation into the freehold was the basic condition for the preservation of the peasantry as a class in England.

One of the most important features of the English bourgeois revolution was the distinctive ideological draping given to class and political aims. It was the last revolutionary movement in Europe which was carried on under the medieval banner of a struggle of one religious doctrine against another. The assault on absolutism in England began with the assault on its ideology, its ethics, and its morals, which were embodied in the doctrine of the semi-Catholic state Anglican Church. Bourgeois revolutionaries came forward as church reformers—the Puritans. The preaching of the Puritans laid the basis for the revolutionary ideology of a popular anti-feudal uprising. By the start of the 17th century, two basic groups had taken shape in Puritanism: the Presbyterians and the Independents.

The Tudor kings had managed to mask absolutism in parliamentary forms of government. But the Stuarts—James I (1603–25) and Charles I (1625–49)—came into conflict with Parliament. The conflict became particularly sharp under Charles I. A nonparliamentary regime embodying a decadent form of absolutism was established in England as of 1629. Charles I, along with his advisers, the earl of Strafford and Archbishop Laud, began to implement a firm course in England, Scotland, and Ireland. The policy produced discontent and rebellion and increased emigration to North America.

The plundering of Irish landowners continued, and the policy of church uniformity in a country where Catholicism was dominant and which was oppressed by foreign conquerors strained relations to the limit.

In Scotland the attempts to introduce church uniformity led to a national uprising against Charles I in 1637, to the establishment of the so-called Covenant, and, in 1639, to the Anglo-Scottish war, in which English absolutism suffered a defeat. This defeat and the peasant and city uprisings which erupted in the 1620’s and 1630’s hastened the start of the revolution. The Short Parliament (Apr. 13–May 5, 1640) refused to grant subsidies for the conduct of the Scottish war. The lack of funds on the one hand and discontent among both the lower classes and the financiers and merchant class on the other made Charles’ situation hopeless. A new parliament was called, which subsequently received the name of the Long Parliament (Nov. 3, 1640–Apr. 20, 1653), and the revolution began.

The Long Parliament destroyed the basic instruments of absolutism: the prerogative royal courts—the Star Chamber and the High Commission—were liquidated; all monopolistic patents and privileges were eliminated and their holders dismissed from Parliament; and a bill preventing the dissolution of an existing parliament without its consent was adopted. Strafford, the king’s closest adviser, was brought to trial in Parliament and executed on May 12, 1641. Later, Archbishop Laud and other advisers of the king shared his fate.

However, differences in Parliament began to appear even in 1641. The landlords and the bourgeoisie thwarted the resolution of the elimination of the episcopy and reorganization of the church on Calvinist principles; they feared that the principle of equality and self-government, after triumphing in church affairs, would influence the political system in the country as well. The fear of deepening the revolution was still more obvious in the bitter struggle which developed in the Long Parliament in the discussion of the so-called Grand Remonstrance, which was adopted Nov. 22, 1641, by a majority of only 11 votes.

By August 1641 power in the state had in effect passed to Parliament. The secret of its victory lay in the fact that the insurgent people—first and foremost London—stood behind it and foiled, in particular, the king’s attempt in January 1642 to arrest the opposition leaders, including Pym and Hampden. On Jan. 10, 1642, Charles went north to the protection of the feudal lords.

On Aug. 22, 1642, the king, who was then in Nottingham, declared war on Parliament. The first civil war between the royalist Cavaliers and the parliamentary Roundheads began. The economically developed southeastern counties, led by London, supported Parliament, while the comparatively backward counties of the south and north supported the king. Regular armies were created. The indecisive policy of the “moderate” majority of the Parliament, the Presbyterians, led to the defeat of the parliamentary army in the first battle at Edgehill on Oct. 23, 1642; furthermore, it allowed the royalist army to establish a base in Oxford. At this critical moment, the mass peasant movement in the countryside and the plebeian movement in the cities unfolded; it was echoed in Parliament by the revolutionary democratic line of the Independents led by O. Cromwell. Cromwell strove to transform the army into a popular revolutionary force capable of achieving victory. The old command—mainly Presbyterian—was broken up. It was decided on Jan. 11, 1645, to create a new parliamentary army, the so-called New Model Army. On June 14, 1645, the reorganized parliamentary army routed the royalist army at Naseby. By the end of 1646, the first civil war had ended in a victory for Parliament. Charles I surrendered himself to the Scots, who delivered him to Parliament on Feb. 1, 1647.

The new nobility (the gentry) and the bourgeoisie considered the revolution basically concluded: their primary aims had been achieved. The Ordinance of Feb. 24, 1646, eliminated knightly holding and all the duties to the throne which stemmed from it, and by the same ordinance large landowners appropriated the right of bourgeois private property to the land, which had previously been their feudal property. The abolition of monopoly rights partially reestablished the principle of free competition in industry and trade; the operation of legislation against enclosure was suspended. The entire weight of taxes for military needs was shifted to the shoulders of the working people.

This was the context in which the popular masses took up the revolutionary initiative themselves. They not only foiled all the plans of smothering the revolution; they even attempted to turn it on to a democratic course. The autonomous party of Levelers, whose leaders included J. Lilburne, separated from the Independent Party.

In an effort to suppress the revolutionary strivings of the people, Parliament attempted to disband part of the revolutionary army in the spring of 1647. Threatened by disarmament and suspicious of the Independent officers, called the “Grandees,” the soldiers began to choose so-called Agitators, who gradually gained the leadership of military units and of the army as a whole. A conflict between Parliament and the army began. The threat of political isolation moved O. Cromwell, who had initially supported the subordination of the army to Parliament, to head the soldiers’ movement in the army in order to halt any further movement to the left. At a general review of the army on June 5, 1647, the so-called Solemn Oath not to disperse until the demands of the soldiers were met and the rights and freedoms of the English people were secured was adopted. Together with the broad peasant and plebeian masses, the army became the basic moving force of the revolution in its bourgeois democratic stage (1647–49). In June 1647 the army took the king captive; in August it launched a march on London, which resulted in the expulsion of Presbyterian leaders from Parliament.

The extent of the gulf between the Independents and the Levelers in their conceptions of the goals of the revolution became evident at the council of the army in Putney, Oct. 28–Nov. 11, 1647, at the Putney Conference. As opposed to the Levelers’ demand for the establishment of a parliamentary republic with a single-chamber parliament and the introduction of universal suffrage (for men), which was formulated in their project for the political structure of the country (the Agreement of the People), the “Grandees” laid out their own program, the Heads of Proposal, which would have retained a two-chamber Parliament and a king with the right of veto. The conflict between the “Grandees” and the Levelers led to the dissolution of the council. The disobedience of certain regiments demanding the adoption of the Leveler program was cruelly suppressed. The army was in the hands of the “Grandees.” At this time the king fled from captivity, having concluded a secret compact with the Scots.

The second civil war, which erupted in the spring of 1648, forced the Independents to seek a temporary reconciliation with the Levelers. But the acceptance of a considerable part of the Levelers’ program by the “Grandees” meant that the social program of the Levelers—in particular, with respect to the question of the fate of the copyhold—was only a more radical variant of the “Grandee” program and “... that only the intervention of the peasantry and the proletariat, ‘the plebeian element of the cities,’ could seriously advance the bourgeois revolution . . .” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17, p. 47). In the battle at Preston (Aug. 17–19, 1648), Cromwell inflicted a decisive defeat on the Scots and English royalists. On Dec. 1, 1648, the king was taken into custody. The army again occupied London and decisively purged the Long Parliament of its Presbyterian majority (Pride’s Purge, Dec. 6, 1648). On Jan. 6, 1649, a high court was established to review the case of the king. On January 30, Charles Stuart was executed as “a traitor and a tyrant.”

On May 19, 1649, England became a republic in which supreme power was vested in a single-chamber parliament; the House of Lords shared the monarch’s fate. In actuality, the republic of 1649 was an Independent oligarchy. Executive power was exercised by the State Council, which consisted of “Grandees” and their parliamentary confederates. The confiscated lands of the king, the bishops, and the Cavaliers were sold off for next to nothing; thus the republic enriched the bourgeoisie and the new nobility. At the same time, it did not satisfy a single demand of the lower classes. The Leveler leaders were thrown into prison, and Leveler uprisings in the army in May 1649 were suppressed. The Levelers were defeated, in particular, because they bypassed the basic question of the revolution—the agrarian question. They opposed the socialization of property and the equalization of wealth. It was the so-called true Levelers, the Diggers, who expressed the interests of the popular lower classes in the period of the revolution’s ascendance. They demanded the abolition of copyhold and of the landlords’ power, insisting that communal lands be turned into the common property of the poor. The Diggers’ ideas were reflected in the works of their ideologist, G. Winstanley, in his Declaration From the Poor Oppressed People of England. The destruction of the peaceful Digger movement for the collective cultivation of communal wastelands (1650) marked the final victory of the antidemocratic force with respect to the agrarian question.

The Independent republic combined socially protective functions in internal policies with annexationist strivings and a policy of suppressing the liberation movements of peoples under English domination. Cromwell’s military expedition to Ireland (1649–50) was aimed at the suppression of the national liberation uprising of the Irish people. The regeneration of the revolutionary army was completed in Ireland. A new landed aristocracy was created there as a stronghold for counterrevolution in England itself. The English republic dealt equally mercilessly with Scotland, annexing it to England in 1652. The republic’s antidemocratic course in the resolution of the agrarian and national questions narrowed its social base, leaving only an army of mercenaries as its support, maintained at the expense of the popular masses. The dispersal of the Rump of the Long Parliament and the unsuccessful experience of the “Grandees” with the Short (Barebone) Parliament of 1653—which, unexpectedly for its creators, embarked on a path of social reform, including the abolition of tithes, the introduction of civil marriage, and so on—paved the way for a military dictatorship, Cromwell’s Protectorate (1653–59).

The constitution of the Protectorate—the so-called Instrument of Government—gave such broad powers to the protector that it could be considered a direct preparation for the restoration of the monarchy. Cromwell dissolved the first (1654–55) and second (1656–58) parliaments of the Protectorate and assented (1657) to the reestablishment of the House of Lords, all but assuming the throne of England himself. Within the country, he struggled against both royalist conspiracies and popular movements. Continuing the expansionist policy of the republic, the Protectorate declared war on Spain and organized an expedition to seize its West Indian possessions (the Jamaica Expedition, 1655–57).

Shortly after the death of Cromwell on Sept. 3, 1658, the regime met its downfall. The republic was formally reestablished in England in 1659, but the entire course of events determined in advance that it would be short-lived. Frightened by the strengthening of the democratic movement, the bourgeoisie and new nobility began to incline toward “traditional monarchy.” In 1660 the Stuarts were restored. They agreed to sanction the basic conquests of the bourgeois revolution, guaranteeing economic domination to the bourgeoisie. The coup of 1688–89, the so-called Glorious Revolution, formalized the compromise between the bourgeoisie, which henceforth would have access to state power, and the landed aristocracy.

The English revolution gave powerful impetus to the process of so-called primary accumulation of capital—that is, the “depeasantization” of the countryside, the transformation of peasants into hired workers, the acceleration of enclosure, and the replacement of peasant holdings by large farms of the capitalist type. It guaranteed complete freedom of action for the bourgeois class and paved the way for the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, just as Puritanism broke the soil for the English Enlightenment. In the area of politics, the revolutionary struggle of the popular masses in the middle of the 17th century secured the transition from the feudal monarchy of the Middle Ages to the bourgeois monarchy of modern times.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. “Gizo ‘Pochemu udalas’ angliiskaia revoliutsiia? Rassuzhdenie ob istorii angliiskoi revoliutsii.’” (Review.) Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 7.
Marx, K. “Burzhuaziia i kontrrevoliutsiia.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 6.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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