March 22, 2023, by ahzsa
David Appleby’s compelling new book chapter on the aftermath of the English Civil Wars
The wars which ravaged the British Isles between 1639 and 1651 took a huge toil on civilian communities. Staffordshire, located in the English Midlands, was unfortunate enough to be considered strategically important to both Charles I and Parliament. The petitions of maimed soldiers and war widows not only reveal the extent of suffering within Staffordshire but also offer insights into how and why the increased need for welfare provision continued to cause problems for the county’s rulers long after the fighting had ended. These problems were exacerbated in 1660 when the restoration of the monarchy forced Staffordshire’s justices to consider how best to deal with ageing, disabled and needy parliamentarian pensioners (now viewed as rebels), at the same time as they were required to discharge the Stuart dynasty’s moral obligations to hitherto neglected royalist veterans and widows. Using material gathered as a co-investigator in the AHRC project ‘Conflict, Welfare and Memory during and after the English Civil Wars, 1642-1710’, David J. Appleby has provided a wealth of fresh insights into the experiences of the common people of a war-torn county, and their difficulties in negotiating with local and national authorities. War relief was essential for the survival of veterans, widows and their families, but Appleby argues that the process of petitioning compelled each claimant, their family, neighbours and those in authority to place their physical and mental trauma within competing national ideological frameworks. The provision of post-conflict welfare consequently perpetuated such bitter divisions and political instability that it should be considered an important factor in the decline of traditional culture of neighbourliness, which in turn helped drive a seismic shift in the relationship between individuals, local communities and the state.
Dr David J. Appleby, ‘“Members of one another’s miseries”: the culture and politics of war relief in seventeenth-century Staffordshire’, in Ian Atherton, Matthew Blake, Andrew Sargent and Alannah Tomkins (eds), Local Histories: essays in honour of Nigel Tringham, Collections for a History of Staffordshire, 4th series, vol. 27 (Staffordshire Record Society, 2023 for 2022), pp. 175-190.
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