Skip main navigation

What caused the English Civil War?

It heralds the culmination of hopes for a true and full religious reformation instead of the political one that Henry VIII had instituted
© Lancaster University

The English Civil War is the background into which Quakerism emerges.

This is a tumultuous period in English social history and combined with harvest failures and food shortages, high levels of religious expectation and political vision, it has been described as a time when “the world was turned upside down”.

The Civil War heralds the culmination of hopes for a true and full religious reformation instead of the political one that Henry VIII had instituted in 1534. It is a struggle for democratic power over the dynastic divine right of the monarchy and of greater enfranchisement.

For some, the war and the upheaval signal that Christianity is reaching the culmination of the biblical timeline and that the events foretold in the book of Revelation are about to come true. Everything is up for discussion, negotiation, and revision or revolution.

Some of the first Quakers fought in the Civil War. George Fox travelled around England staying at the army camps where the most radical ideas were circulating and whilst he doesn’t mention it, his transforming experience happens in 1647 during the Civil War.

Quakerism later flourishes during the Republic led by Cromwell, partly because of the lack of censorship and the degree of religious freedom offered the Quakers by the Puritan rulers.

Extra resources

Below are some links to articles and YouTube videos which will give you some background about the English Civil War. Watch one or two of them to help understand the political context in which the Quaker movement was born.

© Lancaster University
This article is from the free online

Radical Spirituality: the Early History of the Quakers

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education