William Lamont, 21 July 1983
We shall know more about the origins of the English Civil War when we know more about English Puritans. This seems, on the face of it, an absurd proposition. From S.R. Gardiner’s confident description of the Great Rebellion as ‘the Puritan Revolution’ downwards, we have not lacked studies which linked Protestant religious attitudes to the coming of the Civil War. Titles such as Woodhouse’s Puritanism and Liberty or Haller’s Liberty and Reformation in the Puritan Revolution pay homage to this tradition. Gardiner, Woodhouse and Haller, in different ways, were showing how Protestant ideals influenced the middle-class constitutionalism of Opposition MPs. Michael Walzer went further in his Revolution of the Saints by arguing that Calvinism was a modernising ideology. With breathtaking audacity, he leapt from case-studies of Marian exiles to New Model soldiers belting out battle hymns, in pursuit of his thesis that revolutionary dogma was to be found in mainstream English Puritanism and not (as was often supposed) merely in a sectarian lunatic fringe. There was no danger in any of these studies of the religious dimension being squeezed out of an explanation of the origins of the English Civil War.