Civil War

Oliver Cromwell came to prominence against the background – indeed because of – a series of bloody Civil Wars across the British Isles during the 1640's. These have been traditionally known as the English Civil War, although historians now see them as a series of linked conflicts between 1639 and 1651. As such they are now usually referred to as the British Civil Wars or the ‘Wars of Three Kingdoms’. Follow the links below to find out more about the Civil Wars and this tumultuous period in our history.

Causes of the Civil War


Although there is general agreement between historians as to the different causes of the Civil War, there is a good deal of debate over how much emphasis or importance to each of them. There were several factors which led to the country being plunged into a bloody conflict; many political, some religious, others personal or local in nature. Read more

Key Events


The first major battle of the First Civil War at Edgehill in October 1642 was indecisive, and showed that neither the Royalists or the Parliamentarians had a clear advantage, that the war was not likely to be won quickly. Read more



There were no permanent armies in Britain when the English Civil War started in 1642; indeed, the last time that the country had experienced anything close to a full scale war had been the threat of the Spanish Armada 70 years before. Read more

Key Figures


These are some of the key figures, other than Cromwell and his family, who played a major part in the politics and military actions of the Civil Wars. We have items and portraits in our collections which relate to many of these figures. Read more

Discover more about Cromwell

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