Language in English Civil War Title Pages




Political Ideas of the English Civil War

A whole diversity of political ideas existed in England in the half-century before the war. This survey cannot capture the complexity of these many ideas, but summarizes the most common. All parties agreed that a King had certain obligations to the country, and should not be a 'tyrant.'The royalists maintained that only God could punish a tyrant, and any popular revolution is sin. But their opponents claimed that people had an obligation to overthrow a tyrant. The opponents of the King believed a 'tyrant' was a monarch who denied the ancestral laws of his country. These believed that Parliament had been given ancient rights to rule the country by those laws, and that any denial of those rights was an example of 'tyranny.' They asserted that King Charles had denied these rights by enforcing taxes without the consent of the parliament, by rarely convening a parliament, and by denying legal process to some criminals. These political disputes were intimately linked with religious disputes. Since the 16th century, England had rejected Catholicism for 'Anglicanism,' which in many ways resembled Catholicism. But many religious groups (Puritans, Presbyterians) rejected the hierarchical clergy of the Catholic church. Charles supported "High Church Anglicanism," which greatly resembled Catholic hierarchy. His puritan and presbyterian opponents opposed him for this, and often accused him of being a Catholic, or 'Papist,' in secret. This was an incredibly strong accusation, and many anti-monarchists claimed that his 'papacy' itself justified revolution.

Things to Keep in Mind with Printing

The popular use of the printing press allowed the cheapest production of printed material in English history. Starting in 1642, when Charles loses control of London to Parliament, he can no longer enforce laws punishing printers and authors for publishing seditious material. Because almost everything is published in London, the years after 1642 saw a huge increase in printing many different genres of writing. Specifically, political printing becomes popular. So many new texts forced printers to actively advertise them to common people, and they often did that with the public posting of 'title pages.' Sometimes publishers, and often booksellers, would become associated with political stances themselves. The reputation of the author and the printer, along with other elements (what we're studying!) were used to publicly advertise their products.