The causes and nature of the civil wars that gripped the British Isles in the mid-seventeenth century remain one of the most studied yet least understood historical conundrums. Religion, politics, economics and affairs local, national and international, all collided to fuel a conflict that has posed difficult questions both for contemporaries and later historians. Were the events of the 1640s and 50s the first stirrings of modern political consciousness, or, as John Morrill suggested, wars of religion? This collection revisits the debate with a series of essays which explore the implications of John Morrill's suggestion that the English Civil War should be regarded as a war of religion. This process of reflection constitutes the central theme, and the collection as a whole seeks to address the shortcomings of what have come to be the dominant interpretations of the civil wars, especially those that see them as secular phenomena, waged in order to destroy monarchy and religion at a stroke. Instead, a number of chapters present a portrait of political thought that is defined by a closer integration of secular and religious law and addresses problems arising from the clash of confessional and political loyalties. In so doing the volume underlines the extent to which the dispute over the constitution took place within a political culture comprised of many elements of fundamental agreement, and this perspective offers a richer and more nuanced readings of some of the period's central figures, and draws firmer links between the crisis at the centre and its manifestation in the localities.
Charles W. A. Prior is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull, and is author of A Confusion of Tongues: Britain's Wars of Reformation (Oxford University Press, 2012). Glenn Burgess is Pro-Vice Chancellor of Learning and Teaching, and Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Hull. His most recent book is British Political Thought, 1500-1660: The Politics of the Post-Reformation (Palgrave, 2009).
'Recommended...' Choice 'The essays presented engage with what Glenn Burgess calls one of the most stubborn of historiographical puzzles with exceptional clarity, showing the intricate and shifting ways in which religion and politics interacted.' Seventeenth-century News 'According to their chosen specifications the [editors] have produced a fine volume and one which very significantly advances the subject.' The Journal of Ecclesiastical History '... Morrill takes the opportunity to spur another debate by reminding his readers that these were not simply England’s wars of religion, but the whole of Britain and Ireland too. This is not a new argument from Morrill, but is one that too few historians have yet chosen to take on board.' H-Albion 'This valuable volume concludes with Morrill’s own reflections on each essay, in which he displays his characteristic shrewdness, generosity and honesty.' English Historical Review