European History Pt. 13 — Cromwell

Last time we saw the opening moves of the English civil war. Now we pick up the thread.

Charles I and the parliament came to open war in 1642. Parliament agreed to pass the solemn league and Covenant which made all of the United Kingdom Presbyterian. The Scots supported parliamentary forces because of this.

Parliament was represented by the Puritans who fought under the religious zeal of Oliver Cromwell. After Charles was defeated, parliament was unsure about what to do with him. Cromwell stepped in, intimidated the parliament in what was known as Pride’s purge, and initiated the regicide of Charles I.

Cromwell declared England a republic, but had to resubjugate all of its parts. For instance, the Scots were outraged by the regicide and became royalists again even despite the Solemn League and Covenant, which was designed to earn their support. Cromwell’s resubjugation is also what created a ruling protestant class in Ireland against the wishes of its largely Catholic people.

Radical religious and social groups arose during this time, most importantly the Quakers founded by George Fox, who preached for equality of all types. Quakers encouraged women to preach and have revelations — a practice that threatened the existing religious power structure.

Throughout all of this, Cromwell continued to try to govern, finally abolishing even the rump parliament and ruling as lord protector. He did in 1658, and the proof that his ideals did not gain widespread support is that the son of Charles I, Charles II, was immediately crowned as King of England and Scotland.

Interestingly, the book makes it sound like political activism in England disappeared for 100 years. People were just fed up with the wars and standing armies, and religious extremism. Their solution was to abandon all democratic ideals as “levelling” (after the radical and discredited levellers). The lower classes would remain largely silent in England’s affairs going forward. The ideas of this time though were not destroyed. Rather, they migrated to the new world, where we know that they would gain second life (and of course England would become much more democratized with time as well).




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