The English Civil War

English civil war map


The English Civil War was a series of 3 armed conflicts from 1642-1651.  The conflict was between the Parliamentarians “Roundheads” and the Royalists “Cavaliers”.  It was primarily a debate over how the country should be run: either a constitutional monarchy or an absolute monarchy.  The end outcome had parliament wining the war during the battle of Worcester on September 3rd, 1651.  They enacted a constitutional monarchy and the war had three major consequences: 1) The first and only execution of an English king: Charles I 2) The establishment of the Commonwealth of England (1649-53) followed by the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell (1653-59). 3)The exile of Charles II (the son of Charles I).

The war started because Charles I believed in the Divine Right of Kings and viewed Parliament as a threat to his power.  English law prohibited the King from raising without the consent of Parliament.  The conflict escalated after Charles attempted to circumnavigate English law by applying illegal taxes.  Parliament and the King gathered their forces and went to war.  Parliament in general held cities, while the King commanded rural areas.

This conflict expanded to include all of England and plunged the countryside into chaos.  For the first time in English history the countryside was experiencing directly the chaotic nature of war.  English judges were called away to deal directly with the civil war, leaving local magistrates in charge.  These men had not been officially trained and even more, had no central authority to answer too.  The central authority was gone.  This was the time when the authority of the Magna Carta was questioned and when Matthew Hopkins was able to execute nearly 300 women for witchcraft.  In the times both before and after the civil war witch trials never played another prominent role in English history.  The lack of central authority seen here can be tied directly to the only sudden and dramatic rise in witch executions in England.


Barry, Jonathan. Witchcraft and Demonology in South-West England, 1640-1789. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Gaskill, Malcolm. Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy. Harvard University Press, 2007.

Sharpe, James. The Bewitching of Anne Gunter: A Horrible and True Story of Deception, Witchcraft, Murder, and the King of England. 1 edition. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Ohlmeyer, Jane H. “English Civil Wars (English History).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 29 Jan. 2014. Web. 04 Dec. 2014.


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