While much has been written on the subject of the English Civil War, the Second Civil War has been largely neglected. Robert Ashton, author of the standard history, The English Civil War, now provides a detailed and erudite account of the origins of the Second Civil War, covering the years from the end of the First Civil War, in 1646, to late 1648, the eve of the trial and execution of Charles I.
After Parliament defeated the king's forces in the First Civil War, says Ashton, there followed an uneasy period of double dealing within Parliament, between Parliament and its Scots allies, between Parliament and the king, and between Parliament and the Army. After two years of mounting tension, war again broke out in 1648 in a series of regional risings, culminating in an invasion by the Scots and their defeat at Preston.
Ashton explains how the royalists found the support to take up arms again in 1648. Analyzing regional, county, and national developments in England, as well as events in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, he isolates the social, political, institutional, and religious factors that helped to alienate conservative elements from the victorious parliamentary faction. He shows why so many Scotsmen who had fought alongside the English roundheads entered the second war on the king's side in 1648 and how this resulted in a disastrous split within the Scottish political nation. And he explores not only why former supporters of Parliament deserted their allies and embraced the royalist cause, but also why others did not. The book concludes by considering the main characteristics of insurgency in the Second Civil War and the reasons for and consequences of its failure.