The debate over the origins of the English Civil War is a problem that has perplexed historians for centuries and served as one of the most contentious disputations in historiography. The recent debates over the problem of multiple monarchies and the Civil War as part of a pan- European pattern of revolutionary activity from the latter part of the sixteenth to the seventeenth centuries are interesting re-examinations of the problem from different perspectives. Events in England can be seen in the context, or viewed as further evidence of, common European problems during the seventeenth centuries. Philip IV of Spain experienced similar difficulties to Charles I - complex multiple kingdoms and widespread revolt during the 1640s. Both the British and Spanish monarchies faced acute problems that were stimulated above all else by the ambitions of the central governments more than opposition from the governed. During a period of inflation, the costs and scale of warfare were increasing at such a rate that governments were forced to levy increasing pressure on the state. In practice this meant rising taxes, conscription, and the imposition of central authority at the expense of provincial rights and traditions. Thus the ambitions of those in rebellion during the 1640s were defence of liberties rather than revolutionary actions, more reactions to the policies of centralisation that were part of the growth of the modern state.
Charles I's attempt to bring greater uniformity and control in the Church and government of England, Ireland and Scotland provoked revolt, first in Scotland, with the Book of Common Prayer. However there are a number of problems with this approach. England had been politically more coherent than contemporary European monarchies, with integration between local and central government rather than a bureaucratic state. Central government in England needed the co- operation of and harmonious relationship with landed gentry and JPs to enforce authority, collect taxes, and so on. Also, England did not have the same strong provincial traditions or cultures as in parts of France and Spain. In France during the 1640s and 1650s the Frondes were largely a series of regional struggles with little coherence or co-ordination. When we compare this to a national struggle between the King and Parliament over the nature of government in England, the analogy seems increasingly tenuous as the conflict was coherent and derived from divisions within the political élite. The British context of the Civil War reveals yet more contrasts with contemporary European affairs. For example in Spain during the 1640s Portugal and Catalonia revolted in search of political independence, yet these risings were uncoordinated. In comparison, the Scots were not seeking greater political freedom from England so much as closer contact and co-operation to ensure the promotion of further religious reformation. The Scots and English, allied by the Solemn League and Covenant  (1643), were co-ordinated against both the Irish rebellion and Charles I.
[1. Solemn League and Covenant, 1643: An agreement between the English Parliament and the Scottish Covenanters by which in return for Scottish military support against the King in the Civil War, Presbyterianism would be adopted in England.]
Charles I's religious policies did have a central role in the collapse of royal authority in Scotland and Ireland and were an important aspect of the failure to settle the religious divisions between the Crown and Parliament and between MPs within the House of Commons itself. The first and perhaps most important consequence of Charles' religious policies was his decision, in his drive for uniformity in Church and state, to impose the liturgical Book of Common Prayer on the Presbyterian Scottish Kirk. Charles took this decision without consulting either the Scottish Parliament or the Church Assembly. The Arminian- based liturgy deeply offended Scots' sense of their religious and political liberties and led to the formation of the National Covenant  as a united front against the King's authority.
[2. National Covenant: Created by Archibald Johnston in the event of Charles I' imposition of the Book of Common Prayer on the Scottish Church. The Covenant was intended to unite the wide support of Scots for their Presbyterian Church. Its basis lay in the Confession of Faith (1580) that James VI (Charles's father) had signed - this gave the Covenant the perspective of a conservative movement only intending to maintain the status quo. Nevertheless it was interpreted as a challenge to both episcopacy and Charles's authority in Scotland. The Covenant attracted wide support in 1638 and became the bond that united Scots against Charles I. The treaty between Covenanters and the Long Parliament in 1643 (The Solemn League and Covenant) included the extension of the Covenant to England in return for Scottish military support in the Civil War against the King. The Covenant caused problems in the English polity, creating
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