On the 325th anniversary of the Glorious Revolution: The historical significance of the English Civil War (Part One)
By Mark Wegierski
The persons who are likely to read Enter Stage Right are hopefully very atypical of the prevailing, contemporary North American ethos: profoundly concerned with history and culture, and able to read articles requiring a large degree of cerebral effort and long attention-span.
This series is written with the audacious thesis that the now very distant-seeming English Civil War of 1642-1648, and its real aftermath, the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688, constitute one of the critical defining experiences of the new cultural identity that can be termed Anglo-Americanism, which has increasingly defined the shape and substance of all subsequent world-history. The English Civil War, which is really the first great modern revolution, has set the pattern for subsequent revolutionary upheavals in the entire Anglo-American cultural sphere, and especially in America itself.
As the war which set the trajectory of so many future developments, the English Civil War can be seen as one of the most crucial social, political, and cultural struggles in human history. As in the American Civil War/War Between the States, with which it can offer many parallels, the forces in the conflict are unevenly matched, because of the economic predominance of the Northern and Parliamentary sides, respectively. The Royalists, centered in the rural hinterlands of the country, with virtually no navy, and poor sources of munitions and supply, find themselves fighting a losing war against the increasingly powerful forces paid for by the enormous resources of London and other trading-centers. The panache of the Cavaliers is no match for the iron drill and discipline of Cromwell's New Model Army. The sense of the historical inevitability of Cromwell's victory, and the onward rush of successive events, has a certain profoundly tragic dimension to it.
It is the historical significance of the English Civil War as it actually occurred that is described below. A large part of the essay, however, looks at the alignment of social and political forces on the eve of the conflict, to show what is really at stake in this struggle. The very mention of the English Civil War must seem obscure to virtually all contemporary Americans, yet, in a sense, much of the essential history of this society and its way of life would have probably been made impossible by a Royalist triumph. Whether this would have turned out to be a more positive or negative thing for human history as a whole is not yet known, in the strictest sense; however, this essay argues from a basically pro-Royalist perspective, a largely existentialist position given the context of contemporary late modernity. The pro-Royalist perspective is somewhat more understandable for a person rooted in authentic Canadian conservatism – as opposed to someone embracing the typical U.S. conservatism – whose traditions are anti-monarchical and republican from the very founding of the U.S.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.