Interpretations of Charles' actions, the Civil War and the Restoration

Traditionalist view of the Civil War

In the 19th century, Whig historians saw the Civil War as one more step towards England becoming a successful Protestant democracy. They were opposed by Tory historians, who presented Charles as the defender of the Church of England, betrayed by his Parliament.

Marxist view of the Civil War

Marxist historians believe that all history is a class war. They suggested that the Civil War was a war of the middle class merchants and tradesmen against the gentry. The conflict was not a 'civil war', but 'the English Revolution', because it was the time when the capitalist middle class seized power in England.

Revisionist view of the Civil War

The Revisionists suggested that the Civil War was not the result of long-term developments at all. The Civil War flared up suddenly in 1642, when relations broke down between an incompetent king and the aggressive leaders of the Long Parliament.

Recently, historians have pointed out that the Civil War was not the 'English Civil War' at all, but involved the whole of the British Isles.


There have been two significant films Cromwell 1970 and To Kill a King 2003, about the Civil War, both of which concentrate on the personality of Oliver Cromwell rather than the events of the Civil War.

The 1980s BBC TV series By the Sword Divided showed the effects of the Civil War on two families, one of which supported King Charles I, the other Parliament.

Where next?

You can to compare the Civil War with the Glorious Revolution – time when Parliament really succeeded in reducing the power of the monarchy.

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