What was the impact of the civil war on Britain?


On 22nd August 1642 King Charles 1st declared war against his enemies in Parliament. This was the start of the civil war. The majority of people in England - even those most closely involved in the events that led to it-had no idea a civil war was on its way until it had started.


The impact of the civil war on Britain was different for every level of society.


Not many people were in a position to choose sides. They supported the side whose army arrived in their village first or the side the local lord supported. The ordinary people were then forced to fight for that side. They were also forced to pay taxes for the armies and to provide shelter and food for passing soldiers.


The intolerable weight of unfair taxes, besides murder, rape, robberies, and the general exhaustion of war was the consequence peasants had to suffer.


The female half of the population had no contribution towards the outbreak of war, but they did fight once the war had started; women of the gentry sometimes had to defend their homes. At times women even took the lead to stop the war. At Bristol they threw open the gates to an approaching army to prevent fighting.


Meanwhile, puritan London was seething with revolutionary eagerness. By the summer of 1642, civil war was expected and all over the country people found themselves forced to take sides. Whole counties, classes, even families, were divided. But unlike the Wars of the Roses, this conflict affected almost the whole country. Towns were besieged, sacked, burnt; whole communities were left homeless; the marauding armies stripped the countryside of crops and livestock. The war killed over three-and-a-half per cent of the population. One man in ten was killed. Many people died of starvation. Others had their house, their land or all their possessions destroyed. Many families were affected. Few were left unscathed.


Communities were split so that people were fighting against former friends and neighbours. Even families were sometimes split, with children on the opposite side from their own parents, brothers against sisters. Many people were, forced into fighting for one side or the other when all they wanted was peace and to be able to get on with their lives.


Farms and homes were destroyed, with many innocent people suffering. Villagers in Worcestershire were told that if they did not pay


their taxes, \'Your houses will be pillaged and fired and your persons imprisoned.\' Soldiers sent to protect towns often looted the houses and churches for food, horses and valuables.


Both the Parliament’s armies and the Royalists stormed into normal villages and took all of their food and weapons for their own benefits.


The village people were not happy about this and some even barricaded themselves inside their villages to protect their belongings and some hid their possessions. But on the contrary, other people who were having their villages raided by their side, were willing to give away their belongings to help their side win and some women who had husbands fighting in the war wanted to help them.


Religion was a major factor in the civil war. The Royalists said that God was on their side and wanted the King to rule because there had always been kings. However, Parliament said that God wanted a change and wanted parliament to rule, because they would rule better than the king.


Parliament also said that god either wanted the king to cease ruling and let parliament rule, or the king would change his ruling ways and let parliament rule alongside him.


Here is an account from an ordinary Peasant:


‘By Lord Goring\'s army, I lost eight horses. I also lost food or other supplies and other provisions. They ate three large big sacks of wheat and oats. No sooner was the prince gone but more troops hastened their return to plunder me of my horses.’


This was a typical village raid:


They shot at every door or window where they could spy anyone looking out, then hacked, hewed or pistolled all they met without distinction...


They ran into every house, cursing and damning, threatening and terrifying the poor women most dreadfully. They plundered the entire town, picking purses and pockets, searching every place they could think