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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

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