Nomenclature

February 13, 2010 § 1 Comment

Last Tuesday night (2.9.10) we decided to use the term “English Civil Wars,” reasoning that calling them “British,” while more inclusive, also implies a unity or conformity among England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland that we were uncomfortable with. We opted for “Wars,” because it suggests the messy and complicated stages of the conflict. This is pushing it a bit, but you could argue that “wars” could also suggest geographical diversity. We rejected “Wars of the Three Kingdoms,” because although it acknowledges the diversity of conflicts in England, Scotland, and Ireland, it’s a mouthful, and leaves out Wales. Note that historian John Adamson argues that “Wars of the Three Kingdoms” is misleading because conflicts in Scotland and Ireland didn’t approach the significance of those in England in the 1640s.

Although we kicked around the different meanings that attach to “Civil War” and “Revolution,” we’re don’t yet have informed opinions about the propriety of using either term for the events of the mid-17th century.  I suspect we opted for “Civil Wars” because it’s a less contested description: traditionally defined, revolution is characterized by the overthrow or significant revision of the prevailing power structure.  I suspect we were also influenced by the titles of the two histories I asked everyone to buy–Blair Worden’s The English Civil Wars and Diane Purkiss’s The English Civil War.

–Jane

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§ One Response to Nomenclature

  • Averrones says:

    That seems like the best term. However, I still wonder, why only this conflict is named “civil wars”, not the war of Montfort against Henry III or Wars of the roses.

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