It is often said that there was nothing ‘civil’ about the British Civil Wars. This was not the story of dashing Cavaliers and God-fearing Roundheads fighting battles in fields far from the civilian population. In reality, this was a bloody and brutal, all-encompassing conflict which left no community or family untouched and which left an estimated 250,000 people dead, with more than half of that number being non-combatants.
The wars’ aftermath left thousands of survivors with life changing wounds, while destitute widows struggled to care for themselves and their children. In most historic conflicts, these voices are lost to history, but the Civil Wars were different. Responding to widespread hardship and to satisfy the powerful army factions, successive Parliamentary regimes created a welfare system which was subsequently maintained by the crown after the Restoration of the monarchy, to support injured veterans, their widows and families.
To obtain this relief, petitions were submitted by ordinary people seeking help, providing us with a window into the lives of thousands of individuals, families and communities, after their world had been turned upside down.
The Civil War Petitions Project has recorded, researched and analysed these unique documents and here the Principal Investigator discusses some of the stories the team has uncovered.