The Significance of Radical Thought and Attitudes in the Civil War Period

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The Significance of Radical Thought and Attitudes in the Civil War Period

The Civil War caused turmoil and upheaval that affected every strand

of life in England. It challenged and upturned the deeply ingrained

feudal system with a Monarch as the head of all moral, spiritual and

governmental life, and moved thought and order towards new democratic

ideas and systems of rule. This period saw a new experimentation in

ideas and attitudes among the population, which was not welcomed by

many. As Christopher Hill writes "What was new in the 17 centaury was

the idea that the world might be permanently turned upside down". In

the wake of Charles's regicide there was a "popular

mid-seventeenth-centaury belief that the establishment of a prefect

society was imminent" (coward). Many radical movements, from the

Levellers to the 5th monarchists flourished, posing a threat to

traditional conformist ideas on political, social and religious

aspects, which defined many of the boundaries on which the traditional

feudal system was based on. This created much controversy among a

nation seeking stability, and so this period can be thought of radical

in the sense of change.

It is important to be aware just how deeply ingrained the church and

the Monarchy was in every day life, both during and after the Civil

War. They defined most of the boundaries, and structures of 17th

century society, resulting in many radical groups expressing their

ideas through religion. Mich Lynch calles religion "the great issue

that defined settlement", or peace in this case.

One group challenging this were the "True Levellers" mockingly known

as "Diggers:" With beliefs in...

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..."reformation of manners", which attacked feudal, Crown and

Church led structures of government, law and religious worship. With

this he also unleashed an avalanche of further and even more extreme,

therefore radical, ideas, many of which soon began to compromise and

endanger his vision and the four fundamentals. The attitudes,

expectations and change in thinking by Baptists, Presbyterians,

Ranters, Quakers etc., help plant the seeds for democratic thought and

constitutional Monarchy. This period of the Civil War was particularly

significant because it was a time when a great range of experimental

interpretations brought the people to question their relationship to

God and law, to question the rulers and the ruled. Although a

turbulent and an uncertain time, it certainly was a creative and

innovative change in thinking.
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