Origins of the Civil Wars – The role of religion

In the eyes of many Protestants, the religious Reformation begun by Henry VIII after 1534 was unfinished. It resulted in a Protestant Church of England, with a level of ritual and teachings which left the doors open to the reinstatement of Catholic practices.

Against this backdrop, the actions of Charles I after his accession in 1625, fuelled the belief that he meant to reintroduce the ‘Old Religion’. These fears were reinforced when the King appointed William Laud, a strong supporter of high Anglicanism, as Archbishop of Canterbury

Prayer and alterations to church architecture – such as the introduction of altar rails to separate the clergy from the congregation – were interpreted by Protestants as significant moves towards Catholicism.

In 1637, when Charles attempted to extend these reforms to Scotland where he was also King, riots occurred in Edinburgh and by 1639 open warfare had broken out, as the Scots’ army crossed the border and defeated the English at the Battle of Newborn. A disastrous chain of events had now begun, which three years later would lead directly to Civil War in England and Wales and which subsequently would engulf Scotland.

In this discussion, Professor Ann Hughes explains how religious division changed the course of history.

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The World Turned Upside Down
The World Turned Upside Down - The British Civil Wars 1638-1651
Origins of the Civil Wars – The role of religion
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Ann Hughes

Emerita Professor of Early Modern History

Professor Hughes was educated at the University of Liverpool where she completed a PhD on ‘Politics, society and civil war in Warwickshire’. She has worked at the…

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