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Giselle Barbera Morning Shift

The Most Important Cause of the English Civil War Was Unfair
Taxation
The English Civil War was a sequence of conflicts which put together the Parliamentarians (known as
the Roundheads, due to the haircut worn by some Puritans, closely trimmed round their heads, in
contrast to the fashion of the time) and the Royalists (known as the Cavaliers, a word which derives
from the French word chevalier, which means knight). This civil war is divided into three stages: the
First Civil War (1642-1646), the Second Civil War (1648-1649) and the Third Civil War (1649-1651).
The first two conflicts pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long
Parliament
1
, whereas the third conflict was between King Charles II the son of the executed King
Charles I and the Rump Parliament it was the English Parliament resulting from the purge made in
the Long Parliament by Colonel Pride in 1648, removing those members who were reluctant to judge
King Charles II for high treason.
Given that the purpose of this paper is as its heading indicates- to discuss whether unfair
taxation was the most important cause of the English Civil War, the only conflict to be herein
discussed is the First Civil War (1642-1649).
Each side had its own motivations to confront the other. On Charles Is side, there were four
clear motives too fight:
Firstly, the supporters of the King were deeply loyal to the Monarchy, due to
centuries of assurance granted by the different Monarchs.
Secondly, Charles I and his men felt an actual chivalric enthusiasm.
Thirdly, Prince Rupert symbolized the true warmongering of a soldier descending
from the nobility.
Fourthly, there was a strong apprehension towards Puritans.
On the other side, the Parliamentarians first alleged that their motives were political,
however, Democracy, moderate republicanism, and the simple desire for constitutional

1
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Civil_War
guarantees could hardly make head of themselves against the various forces of Royalism ()
2
. It was
soon brought to light that the Roundheads driving motor was religion, more specifically, Puritanism.
It is important to take into consideration that the Parliamentarians were materially stronger
than the Royalists. The Roundheads did not only rely on the navy and the army trained for the Irish
war, but also with most of the fiscal means of the country, plus the support of the most important
towns.
Anyway, the Battle of Edgehill the first significant confrontation between the Cavaliers and
the Roundheads, occurred in October, 1642 () demonstrated that a clear advantage was enjoyed
by neither the Royalists () nor the Parliamentarians ()
3
. It was because of it that there were not
many pitched battles, but the strategy of both sides was to put an end to the enemys founds,
without squandering theirs.
Charles I, having won the first battle, established his headquarters in Oxford, while in London
his final destination the troops supported the Earl of Essex, the Parliamentarians general.
Although the King held an advantage which, in fact, gave him the victory against the
Parliamentarians, such advantage was only because Essex had delayed the moment when he went
into action, giving Charles the opportunity to grow mighty.
The Roundheads principally owed their final victory to Oliver Cromwell, who summoned a
troop composed of very religious farmers who he trained under a strict discipline. Cromwell himself
() had a natural aptitude for war () he was extrovert in battle, with a capacity for instant decision
and () alertness and vitality.
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By the middle of the war, both sides went in search of allies, for there was a crisis coming
close. While the Parliamentarians allied with the Scots, Charles gained fierce disrespect when it was
known that he had secretly executed a treaty with the Irish catholic rebels, due to the great aversion
everyone felt towards the Irish troops.

2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_English_Civil_War#Motivations
3
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/187936/English-Civil-Wars/261390/The-first-English-Civil-War-
1642-46
4
David Harris Willson, A History of England, University of Minnesota, 1972, pg. 382
Finally, after a series of sieges, pitched battles and purges in the armies, Charles submitted
himself to the Scots in May, 1646. Because of this action, he was tried and executed for high treason
in 1649.
Among historians, there are many theories about which the real causes of the English Civil
War were. Currently, James and Charles are thought of having tried and defended () the ancient
rights of the Crown against the aggressive onslaught of the Commons
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. The lesser nobility found out
that, whereas they grew wealthier across the decades, they did not have much political influence.
The conflict with the Monarch arose when the gentry claimed for more authority in making political
decisions; so that their parliamentary power would match their economic status.
Nevertheless, this theory was highly criticized, and that originated other views. On one hand,
it alleges that, given that wealth came from a mixture of factors, the gentry, observing that their
social class was experiencing an economic decline, they rebelled against the Crown, envious of the
officeholders who were close to it. Other theory argues that the conflict between the King and the
Commons arose for religious and political reasons, more than because of the gentrys economic
issues. The supporters of this view say that, at first, the Commons did not intend to depose the King,
but to restrict his prerogatives.
The current economic problems were also a cause of the Civil War. The merchants, the
industrialists and the country gentlemen demanded more independence to transact their businesses
and make their profits. However, James and Charles () believed that the regulation of the
economy was a royal prerogative () for the protection of the Crown and for () the general good.
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They, believing that their policies would help the poor against the rich, preferred a stable economy,
for they thought its changes would bring social agitation and unemployment. Nonetheless, their
economic plans were erroneous, and caused unease among the merchants and landlords, whereas
they did not improve the condition of the poor. As regards the industry, although it had augmented

5
Willson, pg. 377
6
Willson, pg. 377
and the population grew in number, capitalists () found that they were commanded to do
uneconomical things ()
7
.
The poor did not sympathize with the King in the Civil War, while the nobility was divided
between one side and the other.
To summarize, although the economic issues of the country was an important cause of the
English Civil War, it is to be also noted that it was not the principal reason of the conflict. Both sides
had their own ideologies to fight one against the other, but the decisive cause of the Civil War was
the quarrel between the Crown and the Parliament, most specifically, the Commons. This sector,
seeing that they did not have as much political power as they thought they deserved, decided to try
and restrain the prerogatives of the King and to withdraw their support to him, without preventing
what these actions would cause in two persons (James and Charles) who believed in their political
power as in a divine right.


7
Willson, pg. 378
References
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_English_Civil_War
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/187936/English-Civil-Wars/261390/The-first-
English-Civil-War-1642-46
David Harris Willson, A History of England, University of Minnesota, 1972