Thursday, 10 October 2019

Alternatives to the terms 'the Great Rebellion', the 'English Revolution' and the 'Wars of the Three Kingdoms'

by Christopher Thompson

I have never been entirely happy with the terminology used by historians to describe the events of the 1640s and 1650s in the British Isles and Ireland. Clarendon's use of the phrase the 'Great Rebellion' appears inadequate in the light of scholarship since c.1970 or so on the interactions between the three Stuart realms while the term 'the English Revolution' carries the weight of improbable Marxist claims about the rise of the bourgeoisie and proto-proletarian agitation.

More recently, investigations of the interactions between Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales have suggested that the 'Wars of the Three Kingdoms' provides a better title but this does not fully provide for the requirements of internal pressures and struggles within those kingdoms.

Having looked around for an alternative terminology, I wonder whether the French terminology for 'great uprisings' may be more appropriate, i.e. 'Les grands soulèvements dans les îles britanniques et en Irlande' or ' le grand soulèvement', since the conflicts of the 1640-1660 period seem to me to have more in common with the revolt of the Low Countries after 1566-1567 or the French Wars of Religion from 1562 to 1598 and the Frondes of 1648 to 1653. I should be interested to learn what others think on this subject.