List of English civil wars

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Civil Wars[edit]

Second Barons' War in England, the Royals (Henry III) on the left vs. the Barons (Montfort) on the right. (British Library, Royal 16 G VI f. 427v)

This is a list of civil wars that have occurred in the history of England.

  1. The Anarchy (1135–1154) – a civil war in England and Normandy between 1135 and 1154 surrounding a succession crisis towards the end of the reign of Henry I, fought between the supporters of the claim of King Stephen and that of Empress Matilda (also known as Empress Maud or Maude). The eventual outcome was the accession of the Angevins in the person of Henry II.
  2. First Barons' War (1215–1217) – a civil war in the Kingdom of England in which a group of rebellious barons, led by Robert Fitzwalter and supported by a French army under the future Louis VIII of France, made war on King John of England.
  3. Second Barons' War (1264–1267) – a civil war between the forces of a number of barons led by Simon de Montfort against Royalist forces led by Prince Edward (later Edward I of England), in the name of Henry III.
  4. Despenser War (1321–1322, 1326) – A baronial revolt in England and Wales against Edward II instigated by Marcher Lords in opposition to court favourite Hugh Despenser.
  5. Wars of the Roses (1455–1487) – a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of York and the House of Lancaster.
  6. The English Civil War (1642–1652) – a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists ("Cavaliers") in the Kingdom of England over, principally, the manner of its government.
  7. Jacobite Rebellions - A Civil war in England, Scotland, and Ireland fought over many years to restore the House of Stuart to the British throne. The conflict started after James II and VII was deposed and exiled in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
  8. American Revolutionary War (1775–83) - The American Revolution started as a civil war within the British Empire.[nb 1] It became a larger international war in 1778 once France joined.[nb 2]

Notable Uprisings[edit]

The boy-king Richard II meets the Peasants' Revolt rebels on 14 June 1381, in a miniature from a 1470s copy of Jean Froissart's Chronicles.
  1. Harrying of the North (1069–1070) - An uprising which started 4 years after the Norman Conquest. Edgar Ætheling, the grandson of Edmund Ironside and the last notable heir to the House of Wessex, fought against the Normans with the support of the King of Denmark Sweyn II, Anglo-Saxons, and Anglo-Scandinavians. It ended in defeat for the Anglo-Saxons & Anglo-Scandinavians. William the Conqueror paid Sweyn and his Danish fleet to go home, but the remaining rebels refused to meet him in battle, and he decided to starve them out by laying waste to the northern shires using scorched earth tactics. The Norman campaign to reconquer Northern England resulted in a genocide towards the people living there.
  2. Ely Rebellion (1070-1071) - An anti-Norman insurrection centred on the Isle of Ely. The Danish king Sweyn Estrithson sent a small army to try to establish a camp on the Isle of Ely. The Isle became a refuge for Anglo-Saxon forces under Earl Morcar, Bishop Aethelwine of Durham and Hereward the Wake in 1071.[11] The area was taken by William the Conqueror only after a prolonged struggle.[12]
  3. Rebellion of 1088 – a war in England and Normandy concerning the division of lands in the Kingdom of England and the Duchy of Normandy between William Rufus and Robert Curthose two of the sons of William the Conqueror.
  4. Revolt of 1173–1174 – a Kingdom of France-aided rebellion against the royalists of the Angevin Empire.
  5. Welsh Uprising (1282) – in England and Wales
  6. Peasants' Revolt (1381) – in England
  7. Cornish Rebellion of 1497 - in England
  8. Monmouth Rebellion (1685) – in England, The Monmouth Rebellion, also known as The Revolt of the West or The West Country rebellion, was an attempt to overthrow James II, who had become King of England, Scotland and Ireland upon the death of his elder brother Charles II on 6 February 1685.
  9. Glorious Revolution (1688-1689) - James II replaced as king by his daughter Mary II and her husband William III
  10. Post-Spanish Succession Caribbean Piracy (1715–1726) - Piracy outlawed by Treaty of Utrecht, Anti-Caribbean Piracy campaign by Royal Navy. Disestablishment of the Republic of Pirates in 1718. Most outlawed Caribbean privateers captured or killed by 1726, marking the end of the Golden Age of Piracy

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Some historians name the 1861–1865 war the "Second American Civil War", because in their view, the American Revolutionary War can also be considered a civil war (since the term can be used in reference to any war in which one political body separates itself from another political body). They then refer to the Independence War, which resulted in the separation of the Thirteen Colonies from the British Empire, as the "First American Civil War".[1][2] A significant number of American colonists stayed loyal to the British Crown and as Loyalists fought on the British side while opposite were a significant amount of colonists called Patriots who fought on the American side. In some localities, there was fierce fighting between Americans including gruesome instances of hanging, drawing, and quartering on both sides.[3][4][5][6]
    • As early as 1789, David Ramsay, an American patriot historian, wrote in his History of the American Revolution that "Many circumstances concurred to make the American war particularly calamitous. It was originally a civil war in the estimation of both parties."[7] Framing the American Revolutionary War as a civil war is gaining increasing examination.[8][9][10][1]. You can read part two of his 1789 book in full here
    • A group of Bristol, England merchants wrote to King George III in 1775 voicing their “most anxious apprehensions for ourselves and Posterity that we behold the growing distractions in America threaten” and ask for their majesty’s “Wisdom and Goodness” to save them from “a lasting and ruinous Civil War.”[2]. You can read the 1775 petition in full here
    • The “constrained voice” is a good synopsis of how the British viewed the American Revolutionary War. From anxiety to a foreboding sense of the conflict being a civil war,[3]
    • In the early stages of the rebellion by the American colonists, most of them still saw themselves as English subjects who were being denied their rights as such. “Taxation without representation is tyranny,” James Otis reportedly said in protest of the lack of colonial representation in Parliament. What made the American Revolution look most like a civil war, though, was the reality that about one-third of the colonists, known as loyalists (or Tories), continued to support and fought on the side of the crown.[4]
  2. ^ The Revolution was both an international conflict, with Britain and France vying on land and sea, and a civil war among the colonists, causing over 60,000 loyalists to flee their homes.[5]
    • France entered the American Revolution on the side of the colonists in 1778, turning what had essentially been a civil war into an international conflict.[6]
    • Until early in 1778 the conflict was a civil war within the British Empire, but afterward it became an international war as France (in 1778) and Spain (in 1779) joined the colonies against Britain. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, which provided both official recognition of the United States and financial support for it, was engaged in its own war against Britain.[7]


  1. ^ Eric Herschthal. America's First Civil War: Alan Taylor's new history poses the revolution as a battle inside America as well as for its liberty Archived 2017-06-26 at the Wayback Machine, The Slate, September 6, 2016.
  2. ^ James McAuley. Ask an Academic: Talking About a Revolution Archived 2018-01-07 at the Wayback Machine, The New Yorker, August 4, 2011.
  3. ^ Thomas Allen. Tories: Fighting for the King in America's First Civil War. New York, Harper, 2011.
  4. ^ Peter J. Albert (ed.). An Uncivil War: The Southern Backcountry During the American Revolution. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1985.
  5. ^ Alfred Young (ed.). The American Revolution: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1976.
  6. ^ Armitage, David. Every Great Revolution Is a Civil War Archived 2013-12-03 at the Wayback Machine. In: Keith Michael Baker and Dan Edelstein (eds.). Scripting Revolution: A Historical Approach to the Comparative Study of Revolutions. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015. According to Armitage, "The renaming can happen relatively quickly: for example, the transatlantic conflict of the 1770s that many contemporaries[who?] saw as a British "civil war" or even "the American Civil War" was first called "the American Revolution" in 1776 by the chief justice of South Carolina, William Henry Drayton."
  7. ^ David Ramsay. The History of the American Revolution Archived 2018-07-27 at the Wayback Machine. 1789.
  8. ^ Elise Stevens Wilson. Colonists Divided: A Revolution and a Civil War Archived 2016-10-17 at the Wayback Machine, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
  9. ^ Timothy H. Breen. The American Revolution as Civil War Archived 2017-06-24 at the Wayback Machine, National Humanities Center.
  10. ^ 1776: American Revolution or British Civil War? Archived 2018-07-27 at the Wayback Machine, University of Cambridge.
  11. ^ Hereward and the Isle of Ely, BBC History, accessed 6 January 2008
  12. ^ The taking of Ely, BBC History, accessed 6 January 2008