Religion in the British Civil Wars

Rachel N. Schnepper

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online February 2013 | | DOI:
Religion in the British Civil Wars

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Religion and the British Civil Wars, also known as the War of the Three Kingdoms or the English Revolution, are inextricably interconnected: it is impossible to understand the causes and course of the English Revolution and exclude religion. Once the Long Parliament committed itself to the reformation of the Church of England, the question remained of what shape this reform should take. Competing visions of church-government or ecclesiologies, such as Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and Erastianism, dominated debate within the halls of Parliament. However, the breakdown of state-controlled religious conformity released an explosion of new and often radical sects. These radical denominations, which included Ranters, Baptists, Diggers, Levellers, and Quakers, played a prominent role in both political and religious considerations of the Revolution. Furthermore, debates on national religious settlement favoring one church government over another were also complicated by the appearance of an initially minor, but sustained and increasingly important, transatlantic conversation over liberty of conscience. The centrality of religion was recognized, to a degree, in the 19th century, with Samuel Rawson Gardiner terming the English Revolution as the Puritan Revolution. Until comparatively recently, however, the religious factors in the Revolution tended to be downplayed or explained away in nonreligious terms. Recent historiography has renewed interest in the religious dimensions of the English Revolution, an interest that has been shaped by a reconceptualization and redefinition of the meanings of religious belief for ordinary men and women in the 17th century. It is now almost universally agreed upon by historians of the English Revolution that the civil wars between the three kingdoms of the British monarchy—England, Scotland, and Ireland—erupted principally over differing visions of national church-government. Despite being a relatively recent intervention in the scholarship, the literature on religion in the English Revolution is vast, and it continues to provide fertile ground for research and debate. With such breadth of scholarship, the focus of this bibliography must necessarily be truncated and selective. Nevertheless, many of the works included in this article are intended to give the researcher an overview not only of religious history in England in the 1640s and 1650s, but also of the other components of the British monarchy, including not just Scotland and Ireland but also the Atlantic colonies of the nascent British Empire.

Article.  4877 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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