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Phoney War - England, Summer 1642

'Tis to be feared this threatening storm will not be allayed without some showers... of blood' – Chris Durston chronicles the rumours and fears of an England on the brink of fratricidal conflict.

Three hundred and fifty years ago the English people were experiencing a tense and difficult summer, as they watched with appalled fascination the slow but inexorable approach of a civil war which very few of them viewed with anything but dread. At the national level, the country's political leadership remained locked in a desperate struggle for constitutional supremacy, while at a local level sporadic fighting between opposing factions was breaking out with increasing frequency, and the established hierarchical social system began to come under violent attack from below. As the nation teetered on the brink of a bloody conflict, its men and women were gripped by the low fever of phoney war.

The acute political crisis which the country faced in the middle of 1642 had been building steadily during the previous eighteen months. In 1640, Charles I had brought to an end eleven years of personal rule by calling to Westminster the MPs of the Short and Long Parliaments. He had hoped they would provide him with the financial assistance he required to continue his war against the Scots, but the great majority of them were more concerned to correct what they saw as a number of serious politica1 and religious abuses perpetrated by his government during the 1630s.

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