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The Causes of the English Civil War (Ford Lectures) [Paperback]

Conrad Russell
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 27, 1990 019822141X 978-0198221418
What were the causes of the English Civil War? The traditional explanations involving the struggle for sovereignty and the bourgeois revolution have been questioned in recent years. In this study, Conrad Russell offers a compelling new analysis, bringing into focus fundamental religious and constitutional issues of vital importance to contemporaries but neglected by historians. Drawing heavily on research in printed and unpublished sources, Russell highlights the constitutional problem of multiple kingdoms within Britain; the religious problem of competing theologies within and outside a state church; and the economic problem of the inadequacy of royal revenue to meet the needs of the monarchy. The most in-depth account to date of the origins of one of the most significant events in British history, this will be essential reading for all students of the seventeenth century.

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The Causes of the English Civil War (Ford Lectures) + The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) + Causes of the English Revolution, 1529-1642
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Editorial Reviews


"Essential reading for scholars and undergraduates."--History: Reviews of New Books

"Driven by a powerful central theme and illuminated by flashes of brilliance."--American Historical Review

"This is a wonderful set of lectures. It is quite the best thing I know on the vexed problems of causes, and presents Lord Russell in a new and most impressive guise."--J.H.M. Salmon, Bryn Mawr College

"The work's indispensability and profound scholarship cannot be denied."--Choice

"Russell succeeds in a tour de force of accessible scholarship....Russell's vision of the civil war will henceforth be our ruling orthodoxy. His is a remarkable achievement."--The Times (London)

About the Author

Conrad Russell is at King's College, London.

Product Details

  • Series: Ford Lectures (Book 1987)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 27, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019822141X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198221418
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #991,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, concise, thorough June 29, 2000
By J. Hart
This is easily the best book I've ever read on the immediate circumstances of the English Civil War. Russell has proven himself consistently to be a brilliant Civil War scholar, and doesn't fail to do so here. In this slim volume, he ties together the unrest in all three kingdoms of Great Britain, religious conflicts and ambitions, the character of Charles I, and royalist and parliamentary ideals to explain the Civil War in its immediate context. Although he goes as far back as the Reformation to establish some long-term background, Russell pretty much concentrates on the events of 1642. Combine this with his Fall of the British Monarchies (a larger, more expansive, and ultimately much less readable book) and you have a pretty good coverage of all the angles in explaining the Civil War.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting But Best for Specialists January 29, 2008
The origin of the English Civil War is one of the historiographic morasses of the last 50 years. The English Civil War resulted in the execution of Charles I for betraying the British people, establishment of parliamentary supremacy followed by an authoritarian republic, and generated an important body of political thought that persisted for over a century and formed the backdrop of the American Revolution. Because of the importance of the Civil, it attracted a large number of prominent historians, leading to a plethora of conflicting interpretations. These included fairly standard Marxian interpretations (RH Tawney), inverted Marxist interpretations (HR Trevor-Roper), and a host of others.

This book, by the distinguished historian Conrad Russell, is a much more modest effort. Russell carefully specifies that he is interested in the outbreak of the Civil War per se and not in the war itself or its long term consequences. This leads to a much more focused discussion of causes of specific events such as the successful invasion of England by the Scots Covenanter army and the failure of Charles to dismiss or prorogue the Long Parliament.

This is not, however, a detailed narration. Russell is primarily concerned with identifying structural features that made possible the outbreak of the Civil War. The first is the problem of multiple Kingdoms. Britain, composed of the Kingdoms of England/Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, were unified only by the Monarchy. The political, social, and religious problems in each Kingdom were different and sometimes contradictory. This meant that policies in one Kingdom could have adverse consequences in another with the result that factions in different Kingdoms could work with each other.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent book...but torture for a college student March 16, 2003
You need to be familiar with the names, dates, places, etc of the English Civil War before you try to read this. Russell's "Multiple Kingdom" thesis is good, but he seems to overlook population and economic causes -I don't know for sure because I may have slept through those pages...not that I SHOULD have slept though them of course! It would have been a much more engaging book if I loved the English Civil War with all my heart.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Causes of the English Civil War August 14, 2011
By Brad
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Conrad Russell is a brilliant historian, tremendous research went into this book (28 years according to the author)but it's hard to follow if your not familiar with the English Civil War. To get the most out of this fine book,read Anne Hughes' Causes of the English Civil War and Blair Worden's The English Civil Wars as good primers. They are quick reads and will give you the background information needed to better enjoy Russell's fine book.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not great December 12, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was the second most boring book I had to read as a history major. I managed to only fall asleep twice during this one, though. If you must study this, read both this book and The Causes of the English Revolution, 1529-1642. They both talk about the same thing, but, as you can see from the titles, they have different opinions on what actually caused the war. Pretty dull read.
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