A Conversation for The English Civil War

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 1

Cheerful Dragon

Actually, I don't hate to be picky. I love it, I'm good at it, and it's a way of showing off how much I know. So here goes!smiley - bigeyes

Whenever anybody talks about 'The English Civil War', they are always referring to the one that took place in the mid-17th century. This totally ignores the fact that England was involved in 3 civil wars - 5 if you stretch the definition to include Britain and arent' fussy that the last one didn't take place on the British mainland and involved forces of other nationalities. The wars were:

1. King Stephen vs. Maud (or Matilda, depending on who you read), This war lasted, off and on (no war of any length is truly continuous) from 1135 to 1153. The war was over the succession. Maud was the late King Henry I's daughter, but most of the barons at that time wanted a king, not a queen.

2. 'The Wars of the Roses'. This 'war' lasted for much of the late 15th-century and ended with the defeat of Richard III at Bosworth Field. The name was coined by Sir Walter Scott, apparently.

3. 'The English Civil War'. Enough has been said on this, and very eruditely, too. smiley - smiley

4. The Jacobite rebellion, around 1745. This, as civil wars goes, was only a skirmish, but Charles Stuart's (Bonny Prince Charlie) achieved quite a lot. They could have achieved more, but suddenly retreated into Scotland after penetrating some way into England.

5. 'The American War of Independence', 1775 - 1783. Yes, that's right, America. When the war started the '13 states' were '13 colonies'. As for the Declaration of Independence, you don't think the British monarch / parliament were going to take any notice of that piece of paper unless they absolutely had to. Both sides paid for forces from other countries to come over and fight on their behalf - French on the American side, Prussian on the British side (well, George III *was* German!).

So there you have it. The civil war of 1642 - 1651 was actually the third time that 'brother fought against brother', as it were. Just thought I'd set the record straight. smiley - winkeye

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 2


we went through this one in peer review so I got the augments well rehearsed; but in a nutshell the others were either Dynastic Struggles or Rebellion, the English Civil War was a civil war because it was between to branches of Government.

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 3

Cheerful Dragon

According to my dictionary (OED) and Encyclopedia, a 'civil war' is a war between citizens of the same country. It does not differentiate between dynastic struggles, rebellions or wars between branches of government. If you want to look at it in that way, the American and Spanish Civil Wars weren't civil wars because they were rebellions or revolts. In the first case, a group of states 'rebelled' because laws were passed (or likely to be passed) that they disagreed with / disapproved of. In fact, because these states left the Union, it could be argued that they were no longer part of the same country and hence it wasn't really a civil war anyway! The second was started by a military revolt by General Franco against the ruling Republicans. In neither case were 'branches of government' involved. So, as all the examples I cited involved citizens of the same country, I'm standing my ground on this one.

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 4


before we get into 1 & 2 can we at least dismiss 4 & 5

4: The Jacobite rebellion
This was at heart a war btween the English & Scots and as it took part before the Act of Union meaning England & Scotland were seperate nations, even using the definition you provided its a debateable point to call it a civil war..?

5: The American War of Independence
A Colonial War not a Civil War.

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 5

Cheerful Dragon

The Jacobite rebellion was *not* English vs, Scots. The Act of Union was passed in 1707, which means that Scotland was part of the United Kingdom / Great Britain by the time the Jacobite rebellion took place (1745). Add to this the fact that some Scots (mostly Lowland Scots) fought with the *British* army against their compatriots in Charles Stuart's army (mostly Highland Scots) and you have a Civil War.

A similar argument can be used for the American War of Independence. Yes, it was a colonial war but, again, some colonists fought with the British against their compatriots, making it a civil war. Also, many of the people living in the colonies at that time were British by birth (i.e., born in Great Britain rather than in the colonies), so I still say it counts.

Any reply to this message won't get an response from me for a couple of weeks, as I'm off to Wales for a holiday. We can 'take up cudgels' again when I get back.

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 6

Cheerful Dragon

Oh, before I go, regarding 1 and 2.

Stephen vs. Matilda was *not* a dynastic struggle. Matilda was the daughter and only (surviving?) child of the reigning king, Henry I. Before he died Henry made his barons swear that they would support her as queen. However, when Henry died many of the barons decided that they would rather have Stephen, a grandson of William I, as king. Not surprisingly Matilda was annoyed by this because the barons were breaking their vows. Not only that, but Stephen had previously recognised her as queen. Thus the war was, effectively, over primogeniture (the rights of the first-born or eldest surviving child of the monarch) vs. Salic Law (which states that the closest surviving male relative becomes king). According to my history books and encyclopedia, the war that ensued over the right of succession *was* a civil war.

Although the Wars of the Roses turned into a dynastic struggle, they didn't start out that way. There is no single reason for the outbreak of these wars. Amongst the 'causes' are: dissatisfaction through mis-handling of the later stages of the Hundred Years War; the usurpation of the throne of Richard II by Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV); Henry VI's inability to rule his kingdom. There are other causes, but it would take a full article to go into them, which I don't want to write. Suffice to say, dynastic issues (i.e., the validity of the Lancastrian claim to the throne) didn't apply if the king was a strong king (e.g., Henry IV and Henry V) and able to rule the kingdom, but gave an *excuse* for war if the king was weak (e.g., Henry VI, who went mad). Again, my history books and encyclopedia define these battles as civil war.

It may be that we will have to agree to differ on these matters because, based on the information at my disposal, each of the wars I listed fits the definition of civil war. Therefore I stand my ground and re-iterate: England / Britain has been involved in 5 civil wars, not 1.

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 7


big reply comeing for your return ...

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 8


Stephan & Matilda

Yes a civil war but it was also war over who held the crown & not how England should be governed and is probably better described as Dynastical struggle.

Wars of the Roses

This was a Dynastic Struggle right from the start, The house of York had long maintained that they had a better claim to the throne (by virtue of here bloodline) than the ruling house of Lancaster. The failure of Henry VI to produce an heir brought theses arguments to the fore & it was only a question of time before they acted on. Previous Lancaster kings averted this crisis by virtue of being exceptional kings; Henry VI wasn't a king of the same calibre as his predecessors.

The Jacobite rebellion

By your own argument this was a British Civil War not & English Civil War; the same argument could be used about the AWI.

The American War of Independence

Convince Colonel Sellers(http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/U49720) of your argument & I will accept it until then I have already posted my thoughts.

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 9

Cheerful Dragon

I refer you back to my second posting. As neither my history books, encyclopedias nor dictionary differentiate between 'types' of 'civil war', I'm prepared to stand my ground on all counts, although I will admit that war #5 is stretching the definition a little.

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 10


Three points

1: a civil war can only take place in a nation state. At the time of the conflicts between 'Stephan & Matilda' & the 'War of the Roses' the government was more tribal than national, (it was only at the time of Willy the conquer the coronation oath changed from 'King of the English' to 'king of England' and it took time for this to become a reality). In modern times, many scholars have argued that at this time that the European proto-states should not be considered as nations but areas of tribal dominance.

2: A war may be a civil war but there may a better description of the type of war it is, in the case of the English Civil War “civil war” is the best description of the war.

3: war #4 The Jacobite rebellion by your own argument this was a BRITISH (after the act of Union) war not ENGLISH.

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 11

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

"What's so civil about war, anyway?"

I went to a dictionary first, and found:

civil war: a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country

rebellion: open, armed, and usually unsuccessful defiance of or resistance to an established government

Thus, the American Revolution was both a rebellion and a civil war. Same with the American Civil War. As I am not as well educated in British history as I would like to analyze the other events (350 years of history are so much easier to specialize in than 1700), I will leave it to you.

However, I would like to suggest that the difference between the two terms is very subtle. If the rebellion succeeds, it becomes known to history as a revolution. If the rebellion fails, or if it's fought by two sides of the same coin (war of succession, for example) it's a civil war.

I agree with point three above, made by HappyDude. If the war was not fought internal to England, it cannot be called an English Civil War. The Jacobite Rebellion was internal to the nation of Great Britain, and could be called the British Civil War. The same goes for the American Revolution.

And a pedantic correction... the Americans did not pay the French for their support. The financial arrangement was quite the opposite... the French crown provided vital funding to help keep the Continental Army together, along with their own troops and navy (which was crucial to the victory at Yorktown). Without finances, the Continental Army would probably have collapsed around 1778-79, and it would have degenerated into total guerilla warfare.

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 12


Thanks for the input Colonel

:: waiting to see wot Cheerful Dragon has to say ::

I hate to be picky, but ...

Post 13


The war of the Roses was not just a dynastic feud. It was a war which spanned the Isles, pitching as you say brother against brother. It generally involved the common people as much as the lancastrain and yorkists. Warwick the Kingmaker was neither Lancastrian or Yorkists, and the Earl of Richmond was so unsure of the situation that he fought on whoever paid him the most, hence his decision to make a Rose split in half, with red in one half and white in the other, one of his emblems to state his indecision. In a time when the dominating house of Parliament was the upper chamber (The House of Lords) in which both sides and there vassels had and kept seats throughout, then this is surely just a war over primacy between two political factions. This justifies the claim for The war of the Roses being a civil war. Two waring political factions. As an after fought, how about the Magna Carta. The war waged by the barons against the king forcing him to acknowledge parliament, and to ensure that he can no longer raise taxes without the permission of parliament.
This is surely a civil war. Two different branches of government fighting, over the ability to raise taxes. Fulfills all of the criteria required!!

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