The Civil War
During the 17th century in Britain succeeded to the throne the Stuart dynasty, with James I and, soon (1625), his son Charles I. He couldn’t avoid direct confrontations with the Puritan party (the Puritans had a considerable majority in the Parliament). The Puritans were the more extreme Protestants of the Church of England; they wanted to purify their national Church by eliminating the Catholic influence. They wanted a true balance of power between the king and the Parliament, but Charles I firmly believed that he was king by divine right. The Stuarts summoned the Parliament (now also called “Short Parliament) for a short part of time, only to approve and raise taxes. In 1642 he was asked to give up his command of the armed forces; he refused and the Civil War broke out. There were two factions: Royalists (king’s supporters) and Parliamentarians (Parliament’s supporters, headed by Oliver Cromwell). The “Cavaliers” (Parliamentarians) included the lords, the gentry and officials of the Church of England (called also “Roundheads”, because they considered long hair sinful and cut their short). The king was imprisoned in 1647. Cromwell took control of London and expelled or arrested more than 100 members of the House of Lords. The remaining members voted for the execution of the king on the 30th January 1649 (Charles I was beheaded). The Monarchy was abolished and the country was ruled as a Republic (for ten years), known as the “Commonwealth”; Cromwell was called lord protector.
An East Anglian gentleman farmer, Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) proved a brilliant leader in raising and training cavalry composed of brave soldiers, who were called “Ironsides”. They were educated, Puritan men who believed that God was fighting on their side. In 1649 Cromwell, now commander-in-chief of the army, crushed a rebellion in Ireland; after which, this country was regarded as an English colony and the Irish as a conquered people. The Irish campaign followed by the submission of Scotland, gave the army full control of the political situation. In 1653 Cromwell was appointed “Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland”; in the few years of his rule, he restored the lost prestige of England. Following a mercantilist policy, he reorganized the navy and, through the Navigation Acts in 1651, he stated that all English imports had to be carried in ships owned by England, depriving the Dutch control of trade routes. In contrast with his successful foreign policy, Cromwell failed to achieve his goals at home. Although he tried to rule as a constitutional statesman, he had to rely more and more on the army, which had brought him to power. Shortly after he died (in 1658), the Protectorate collapsed.
The Puritan Mind
The Puritans were hard workers. The Puritanism became to the roots of the Calvinism. In their opinion humans can’t waste time in having fun (playing games or seeing acts). The Bible is the men’s life guide. They believed that salvation depended on God. Many of the Puritans had studied theology in Cambridge. They encouraged personal acts of worship. They wanted to eliminate any trace of the Catholic influence. The Puritan’s reputation has been damaged by a unified view of society implying intolerance. Puritanism provided the foundation for the social structure in modern time. In 1620 the Puritans Fathers went to America to give to American people their religion.