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HistoryPart of Humanities

Research project: Counting the cost of Britain’s most damaging conflict

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In England and Wales, a greater proportion of the population died during the British Civil Wars (1642-1651) than during the First Wold War of 1914-18.

Prof Mark Stoyle at the project conference
Fig 1: Professor Mark Stoyle (4th from the left) at the project con

I am currently involved in a major AHRC-funded project, with a team of other academics from the Universities of Cardiff, Leicester and Nottingham, which aims to shed more light on the human cost of the English Civil Wars of the seventeenth century. The project, entitled ‘Civil War Petitions: Conflict, Welfare and Memory during and after the English Civil Wars (1642-1710)’, investigates how wounded soldiers, war widows and other bereaved family members obtained welfare support from the state.

Thousands of those who survived suffered terrible injuries, whilst widows, orphans and other dependents faced daily struggles following bereavement.

During the Civil Wars, both the king and the parliament recognised their duty of care towards the soldiers who had been wounded or killed in their service. Once the war was over, and Parliament had triumphed, Parliamentarian veterans or bereaved families were entitled to petition for pensions and gratuities from the state. Following the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the position was reversed, and it was former Royalist soldiers who received pensions, while former Parliamentarian soldiers and their dependents were now forced to go without.

As well as looking at recipients of relief, our project examines how those who managed welfare systems responded to the strain of supporting thousands of soldiers and civilians - often with extremely limited budgets. The relationship between relief provision, political partisanship and contested memories of conflict forms a key consideration of our ongoing research.

The Civil War Petitions website provides images and transcriptions of the petitions which were submitted by victims of the conflict for financial aid, alongside certificates of support issued by medical practitioners and military commanders; it also include records of the payments which were made to them. The project began in June 2017 and will run until December 2021.

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