Stuff I Wish I Learned in School: The English Civil Wars

The English Civil Wars

Directed by Graham Holloway (1992)

Film Review

This documentary describes the three English civil wars that occurred during the 17th century. The first, between 1639-40, was the Bishops’ Wars; the second, between 1642-45, when Parliament’s forces seized London and King Charles I ruled from Oxford; and the third, between 1645-46, when Parliament held the King prisoner in London.

The film is very sketchy on the background of the Civil Wars, which Holloway blames on religious differences and the refusal of Charles I to recognize the power of Parliament. Under Charles I, the Church of England resumed many features of Catholic ritual that they had abandoned when Henry VIII split from Rome. This was especially unpopular in London where 50% of the population were Puritans.

When the King attempt to impose a new book of common prayer on Scotland, the Scottish army drove all the Church of England bishops out of Scotland, chasing the English army all the way to Newcastle.

Charles I was forced to recall Parliament (which he dissolved in 1628) to raise taxes to pay the debt he incurred for the Bishops’ Wars. Angered by his refusal to honor their sovereignty, Parliament refused. When the people of London rioted in support of Parliament, the King fled north to Hull to raise an army.

Most of the film focuses on the primitive weapons technology used in 17th century wars and the battlefield tactics employed as the King tried to recapture the south of England and Parliament’s army tried to wall the King’s troops up in the north. The musket, which was only recently introduced, took a minimum of 30 seconds to reload, with gunpowder and a musket ball, before being lighted with a match.

Oliver Cromwell, who would become Britain’s Lord Protector after the King was executed, first came to prominence in 1645 at the Battle of Glaston Moor. It was here his skilled leadership of Parliament’s cavalry won them their first decisive victories.

In the 1645-46 Civil Wars, Welsh and Irish troops supported the King and the Scottish military supported Parliament. During the two years he was a prisoner, Charles I secretly schemed with Scottish forces to invade England on his behalf. Following their defeat by Cromwell, this would lead to the King’s trial and execution for treason.

Although the film can’t be embedded for copyright reasons, it can be viewed free at the Christie Books site:

The English Civil Wars

*The Puritans were English Reformed Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who sought to “purify” the Church of England from its “Catholic” practices, maintaining that the Church of England was only partially reformed.

How the Protestant Reformation Laid the Groundwork for the UK Socialist Labour Party

The Protestant Revolution – Part 1 The Politics of Belief

BBC (2007)

Film Review

More stuff I should have learned in school. Either I was absent that day or I wasn’t paying attention. .

In this documentary historian Richard Jones-Nerzic explores the major political upheaval brought about by the 1517 Protestant Reformation, led by German monk Martin Luther. The film asserts Luther’s willingness to challenge the authority and corruption of the Catholic church unleashed a flood of revolutionary ideas, as well as political upheaval that lasted centuries.

At the time of the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church had immense political power, with authority to levy taxes, raise armies and wage war. Moreover there was already growing dissent in the Church about the sale of indulgences. For a price, anyone could purchase a guarantee of salvation for themselves, family members and even dead people.

In 1521, Luther was hauled before Holy Roman Emperor Charles, V, declared a heretic and banned from the Holy Roman Empire. Sheltered by a sympathetic prince, he grew a beard, Luther disguised himself as Squire George and spent his time translating the New Testament into German. At the time, the Church only allowed the Bible to be printed in Latin, Green or Hebrew. They maintained ordinary parishioners could only understand scripture if a priest interpreted it for them. Luther also made use of the newly invented printing press to churn out pamphlets promulgating his views.

Buoyed by these ideas, as well as heavy taxes and bad harvests, in 1524 German peasants staged a revolt, the largest in Europe prior to the French Revolution.

Jones-Nerzic goes on to trace Henry VIII’s split from Rome in 1538, followed by the Scottish Puritans, under John Knox, breaking  from the Church of England in 1630. In 1642, the split would culminate in the English civil war led by Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell.

The film then explores the close links between the radical idealism (emphasizing equality and justice) of the nonconformist Protestant movement and Britain’s Socialist Labour Party, formed in 1900. It makes the point that the founders of Britain’s Labour Party came to socialism via “the Methodist chapels of Yorkshire and Wales,” rather than Marxism.

 

Reclaiming Our History: The Irish Origin of Settler Colonialism

The Story of Ireland Part 3

BBC (2011)

Film Review

Part 3, which covers the period 1601-1800, begins with the resettlement of thousands of Calvinist Scots in Northern Ireland to subdue the indigenous Catholic population. This successful model of “settler colonialism” would be repeated in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Australia and by Israel in occupied Palestine.

Following the execution of Charles I in 1649, Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland, massacring 3,000 civilians. His 1652 Act of Settlement would deprive Catholic landowners of their property and exile them west of the Shannon River.

In 1690, England’s Protestant lords invited William of Orange from the Dutch republics to dethrone the last Catholic king James II.

Although Catholicism remained Ireland’s state religion, William III’s Penal Laws imposed harsh restrictions on both Catholics and Ulster Calvinists, who were banned from voting, serving in parliament, holding office or running schools. This would cause a massive flood of Scotch-Irish and Catholic immigrants to North America.

Towards the end of the 18th century, Ireland’s Catholic majority became more and more rebellious, inspired by the American (1776) and French (1789) revolutions. In 1796, the new French Republic agreed to provide 15,000 troops to support a (unsuccessful) revolution in Ireland.