Between 1642 and 1653 there were many revolutionary changes in England, these changes affected all aspects of English life, in most of which The Army played either a direct or indirect role.The Army I am referring to is ‘The New Model Army’ the creation of this army was revolutionary in itself. It was a union of the three largest parliamentary armies into one 22,000 strong army. It was quickly moulded into an efficient, disciplined fighting force. It was better trained and better led. Within months of its formation, the New Model inflicted a decisive defeat on the King at the battle of Naseby, June 1645, and brought the First Civil War to an end the following year.There are a several views as to why the New Model was so successful. Differences in opinion could be accounted for by which school of historians they were from. The most modern view is that of Mark Kishlansky, an American historian who believes that The Army’s excellent training and leadership was the key to its success, John Mornill claims that the difference in The Army was that it was regularly paid, professionally led and permanently organised.Another popular opinion is Hill and Firth’s, who believe that success was down to the New Model being ‘an army of saints,’ and the soldiers’ passion for religion and Gods cause. Hill also puts some emphasis on parliamentary resources, probably due to the school he came from. The Army became a political force during and after the Second Civil War 1647-8, forcibly purging Parliament and bringing about the trial and execution of King Charles, 1649. The role of the Army was crucial in upholding the constitutional experiments of the 1650s when most people in England would have preferred a return to Monarchy.One aspect of England the Army became more involved in was politics. The main political change between 1642-1653 was the trial and execution of King Charles I. This was a unique event, and symbolised the monarchy’s loss of power. The Army had a role to play in the execution, which aided the transition of power from monarch to parliament. However The Army was not the only factor, Charles I was being put on trial largely due to his own ineptitude and untrustworthiness. Perhaps the power hungry MP’s could have also had a role in the Kings trying and execution.The Army also shaped parliament at Prides Purge. A regiment of soldiers, led by Colonel Pride, forcibly prevented one hundred MP’s from entering the House of Lords, another two hundred and sixty withdrew voluntarily. The minority that remained, about a third of the MP’s, were branded by their opponents with the unflattering name of ‘The Rump.’ This was a very unorthodox event, however not unique. Six years earlier Charles I entered parliament, accompanied by a body of armed men to arrest Pym, Hampden and three others. Cromwell then dismissed The Rump four years later, also accompanied by an armed force. In its time changed the political side of England drastically. In 1649 The House of Lords was abolished, a republic was established, and the Traditional ruling class was replaced. The Army’s role in these political changes is a little unclear; they would have been needed to enforce these revolutionary changes, and could be responsible in part as they created The Rump.Other areas of revolutionary change were the social and economic side of England. These mainly came after The Civil War; the government was often under pressure from new Radical groups like The Levellers who wanted massive social changes. These were hard to ignore as radicalism had significant support from The New Model Army. There were drastic changes to the social hierarchy; In early May 1649, the confiscation and sale of Crown and Royalist land began. The money was then used to pay the soldiers of The New Model Army the huge arrears they were due. Other land was issued as debentures to the soldiers. Bishops land was also confiscated in 1647, but parish churches were allowed to retain their land, as it was viewed as the property of the people. These changes were brought about due to public and army opinion, whose views were voiced at The Putney Debates.The debates spoke largely about The Army’s influence on England socially, however not all of The Army shared the same views. The spokesman for the Army Council was Henry Ireton, he represented the gentry officers of The Army, Ireton argued that these proposals would cause problems if the lower classes were to be involved in government business. Rainsborough, who represented the ordinary rank and file, replied that everyone should have a say in politics not just the rich. Rainsborough said, “Every man that is to live under a government ought to first by his own consent to put himself under that government.”There were lots of other social and also economic changes during this time, for example taxation rose, this was mainly to fund the civil wars, the Commonwealth (Rump) also imposed many acts, for example, on the 20th of September censorship was imposed on all printed material, this was a way for The Rump to try and control public opinion. The death penalty was introduced for adultery, this appears somewhat firm, The Rump may have been so strict to retain social order, however these legislation so seem to be authoritarian. Like The Army the Rump had a massive impact on the shaping of revolutionary change, however the Commonwealth depended on The New Model Army to remain in power.The most important change in religion was in the removal of the Head of the Church, this was unusual as the state and the country’s religion were usually seen as one. The Army was very important in this religious change. There were other changes, like the toleration of radical groups, who usually had support from the soldiers, however to prevent more extreme religious sects The Rump passed an act against Blasphemy. For the first time since the mid 16th century the people of England no longer had to attend the State Church. In its time The Rump made vast changes to English society, including its economy, and religion. Some may see these changes as revolutionary, but The Rump also remained somewhat conservative. They kept tithes for example; however it seems unusual that the people of England had to pay taxes to a church which they no longer had to attend. It is difficult to determine how much of a role The Army played in The Rumps decisions. The Army’s views would have probably had some influence on decisions, The Army would have enforced all amendments made by The Rump, and without Prides Purge, this puritan government would never have came into existence.So far we know that The Army played a role in shaping revolutionary change. The Rump also had a role to play. There were others who effectively shaped revolutionary changes at this time, and without whom the consequences may have been very different. King Charles I arguably had the most impact. Some believe that his incompetence and personality in general caused the Civil war itself, he was deceitful, and attempted to exploit every incident to his own benefit. If it wasn’t for his stubbornness a settlement may have been reached and Charles may have returned to power.Another individual who played more of an indirect role was John Pym, Pym led the main opposition group against The King in 1640, and he was one of the five members of Commons whom Charles tried to remove in 1642 by military arrest. Pym led many of the demands from Parliament, and he could also have been a catalyst to the outbreak of war, and a contributing factor to parliament’s success. After the outbreak of the civil war, Pym organized various taxation reforms for Parliament and imposed the first English excise duties. These were crucial in funding The New Model Army.Finally an individual who played probably the most direct role in the shaping of revolutionary change was Oliver Cromwell, many viewed as “the passionate and visionary general and statesman.” Cromwell’s military standing gave him enhanced political power; he played a decisive role in the ‘revolution’ of winter 1648-9 which saw the trial and execution of the King and the abolition of monarchy and the House of Lords. As head of the army, he intervened several times to support or remove the republican regimes of the early 1650s.From looking at the revolutionary changes which took place between 1642 and 1653, the question ‘How important was The Army in shaping revolutionary change?’ is difficult to answer. On a scale from one to ten I would say that The Army’s responsibility would be seven, indicating that The Army was more than averagely important. Indirectly, The Army’s influenced a significant number of decisions and changes in this time, they were needed to enforce any new legislations or decree’s put forward by the government, the execution of King Charles I being a good example. The soldier’s views would have been listened to more readily, giving The Army more of a say in politics, which is illustrated by the Putney debates, and if The Army didn’t agree with the political situation, it would flex its military muscle, as we saw at Prides Purge.This shows how the direct involvement of The Army, indirectly impacts the revolutionary changes that followed. When referring to The Army we must also bear in mind who we are referring to, is it The Army by definition, i.e. the soldiers, cavalry etc, or the Leaders like Ireton, Pride and Cromwell, who we have already seen, have their own impact on decisions and change. It is also difficult to determine the Army’s importance as there were many other contributing factors. It is clear however that were it not for the revolutionary New Model Army, many revolutionary changes would not have developed in the same way, or even at all in the years 1642 – 1653.
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