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The Wars of the Three Kingdoms

Jane Ohlmeyer argues that the English Civil War was just one of an interlocking set of conflicts that encompassed the British Isles in the mid-seventeenth century

Charles I in Three Positions by Anthony van Dyck, 1635–36Proponents of the New British Histories agree that British history should not be enriched English history which focuses on Whitehall and uses events in Ireland and Scotland to explain developments in England. Yet the traditional terms used to describe the conflict which engulfed Britain and Ireland during the 1640s, which include ‘Puritan Revolution’, ‘English Revolution’, and more recently ‘British Civil War(s)’, tend to perpetuate this anglocentrism. None of these reflect the fact that the conflict originated in Scotland and Ireland and throughout the 1640s embraced all of the Stuart kingdoms; or that, in addition to the war enjoying a pan-British and Irish dimension, each of the Stuart states experienced its own domestic civil wars. The phrase ‘Wars of the Three Kingdoms’ acknowledges the centrality of the various civil wars fought within the Stuart kingdoms as well as the interactions between them.

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