Although few would contend that London and its inhabitants were indispensable to parliament’s war effort against King Charles I, the matter remains to be delineated in detail. This book explores how London’s agitators, activists, and propagandists sought to mobilize the metropolis between 1641 and 1645. Rather than simply frame London’s wartime participation from the top down, this book explores mobilization as a series of disparate but structured processes – as efforts and events that created webs of engagement. These webs joined parliamentarian activists to civic authorities, just as they connected parishioners to vestries and preachers, and forced interaction between committees, Common Council, liverymen, and apprentices. The success of any given mobilizing effort – or counter-mobilization, for that matter – varied. Activists adapted their tactics accordingly, meeting their circumstances head-on. Londoners meanwhile heeded the entreaties of preachers and civic leaders alike, signing petitions, donating, and taking to the streets to protest both for and against war. Initially called upon to loan money and fortify the metropolis in 1642–3, Londoners had by 1644 become reluctant lenders and overburdened caretakers for sick and wounded soldiers. Revealed here by way of a wealth of archival and printed sources is the collective story of London’s evolving relationship to the challenges of wartime mobilization, of the evolution of efforts to move money and men, and the popular responses that defined not only parliament’s wartime success, but the arrival of novel financial expedients that gave rise to the New Model Army and eventually became apparatuses of the state.
The book begins with a brief review of the historiography of civil war London. Contemporary authors such as the earl of Clarendon and Thomas Hobbes saw the “rebellious city” as chiefly to blame for the conflict, in that it provided the support necessary for parliament to go to war with the king. This explanation is still broadly accepted today, but revisionist scholars such as Valerie Pearl, Stephen Porter, and Keith Lindley have offered significant challenges that emphasize the divisions that existed within the City’s population. Their accounts have been bolstered by recent work on the civil war and revolution that reconceptualizes the ways in which people participated in the conflict, shifting the emphasis from the long-term causes of the war to people’s particular mobilizations. The chapter proceeds to lay out the approach of the book, which seeks to use the full range of contemporary media to relate the dynamics of metropolitan mobilization in the early 1640s. This media includes parochial records, company records, and an abundance of manuscript sources, from petitions and private correspondences to lampooning songs. What emerges are “topographies of mobilization,” rough sketches of London’s participatory political landscape.
Chapter 1 explores how Londoners responded to the crisis of the Irish Rebellion between November 1641 and spring 1642. Offered up is the first systematic look at the ways in which the Irish Rebellion impacted daily life and politics in the metropolis and how, in turn, the war prepared Londoners ideologically for war at home. Metropolitan inhabitants donated supplies and loaned vast sums of money in the hope that they might relieve their beleaguered Protestant neighbors. But their efforts were not entirely selfless. Beyond the immediate significance of their actions, Ireland’s circumstances provided a crucial framework through which Londoners articulated their personal religious and political worlds, and in particular in terms of notions of an overarching “Protestant cause,” a collective concern over the extent to which Protestantism might supersede Catholicism. Metropolitan responses to Ireland reveal, on the one hand, long-term concerns over the international health of Protestantism; on the other hand, they lend crucial insights into how Londoners conceptualized religious – and thus providentially sanctioned – war. Popular responses to Ireland thus provide crucial explanations for the ways in which concerns over an international conflict mutated in 1642 to provide justifications for the coming civil war. Chapter 1, in short, suggests how Ireland helped to prime Londoners for a domestic war, from fears over an amorphous Catholic threat to popular opposition to episcopacy. Highlighted here are some of the critically important ways in which the Irish Rebellion presaged, both ideologically and structurally, the coming civil war.
Chapter 2 considers London’s mobilization and descent into war with special attention to financial expedients, soldier recruitment, and the first experiences of war. Prior to this, however, it considers political developments surrounding the rise of Isaac Pennington, London’s zealous Lord Mayor who replaced the loyalist Richard Gurney, and came to champion parliament’s cause in the City. Pennington and likeminded activists and agitators engaged in concerted schemes to silence parochial opposition and promote parliament’s efforts. Their engagement is crucial to understanding the early war period and the narrative of metropolitan mobilization that henceforth unfolds. Following this important introduction, which sets the tone for the remainder of the book, is a systematic consideration of early wartime finance, including explorations of dynamics of livery company lending, parochial lending, ward assessments, and collections (especially in terms of the establishment of parliament’s Committee for the Advance of Money and the Weavers’ Hall subcommittee), and other important financial expedients. Next is a consideration of the ways in which early financial and military mobilizations shifted popular opinions about war, from breeding notions of urgency to competing ideas about how to best end the conflict. Ultimately, these early efforts laid fractured foundations that would give rise to party divisions and “peace” and “war” movements. Chapter 2 reveals London’s part in making parliament’s nascent war effort possible, but it also exposes conflicting sentiments that would in time shake parliament’s wartime coalition to its core.
Chapter 3 focuses on the politics of the winter of 1642–3, a phase of the civil war that is normally defined in terms of a “peace party” supremacy in the House of Commons and the ultimate failure of official peace negotiations between the Long Parliament and the king known as “The Treaty of Oxford.” This chapter looks instead at a quiet but crucially important diplomatic mission sent from Common Council to the king in late December 1642. The aftermath of this deputation, which unraveled from January 1643 until the late spring and included Charles I’s call for the arrest of seven leading Londoners, and in particular the civic leaders Isaac Pennington, John Venn, Randall Mainwaring, and John Fowke, radically rearticulated London’s relationship to parliament’s war effort. The political manipulation of “the attempt on the seven Londoners,” spearheaded by the accused and their allies in parliament, ushered in a period of unprecedented popular mobilization. This included the introduction of radical new propositions for an alliance between parliament and the City, the pursuit of coordinated iconoclasm, the introduction of radical metropolitan policing methods, the raising of auxiliaries, demands for new loans, and the construction of the Lines of Communication, eleven miles of fortifications built around London, Westminster, and Southwark. Chapter 3 explores how winter 1642–3 – and a previously poorly understood period of London’s wartime narrative – led to a moment of unprecedented action, a time when London’s Common Council behaved like “a third house of parliament,” a body eager to implement its radical agenda.
Summer 1643 marked a low point for parliament’s war effort. Chapter 4 contextualizes this important period through the dual lenses of propaganda and the “general rising,” an attempt by militants to conscript London’s able-bodied men for an army capable of overwhelming the king and his supporters. Although the “general rising” never came to fruition in its intended capacity, it did create a movement of tremendous political importance. Spurred forward by the renewed threat of peace, Mayor Pennington and likeminded militants redoubled their efforts to mobilize Londoners for parliament’s cause. They sought to achieve these ends by way of three main efforts that included the revelation of a spurious plot to create a loyalist uprising in London, the implementation of a radical “Vow and Covenant” oath that bound takers to mutual military support, and finally by way of calls for a “general rising” of able-bodied volunteers. In the aftermath of the “failed” rising, Pennington and his allies coordinated their political efforts, harnessing what support could be generated for the rising and agitating London’s crowds by way of demotic printed tickets. Their efforts succeeded when a crowd of Londoners descended on Westminster’s Palace Yard the following day, calling out in favor of war and threatening Members of Parliament who sought renewed peace proposals. A remarkable scene thus unfolded in early August 1643, a time when seemingly disparate groups (from the Lord Mayor to the so-called “rude multitude”) converged to see the continuation of war trump the possibility of peace.
By late 1643, London had proved to be both a fail-safe and a cornerstone of parliament’s war. Yet the City, with its dozens of parishes and livery companies, with its new fortifications and its seemingly endless capacity to care for the displaced and wounded, was buckling under the pressures of war. Chapter 5 accounts for London’s mobilization under a new Lord Mayor, John Wollaston, and a new parliamentary leadership, centered in the new Committee for Both Kingdoms, and the impact of growing war weariness. Depleted of their reserves, livery companies continued to negotiate loans, but some bordered on insolvency; parishioners meanwhile opined their struggles with the sick and wounded. Parliament, for its part, looked increasingly outside of London for support. This was readily found in the shape of an alliance with Scotland, based on the Solemn League and Covenant, and elsewhere in terms of support from the powerful Eastern Association. London’s ministers persisted, moving their auditors with weekly sermons and exhortations for “the cause”; but “the cause” itself had permutated, becoming less about lending arms than it was about caring for the sick and wounded. While political and religious divisions deepened within the parliamentarian coalition – and not least between the Commons and the Lords – Londoners remained steadfast in their support, sending brigades into the field and eventually lending £80,000 to contract the New Model Army. It was in these efforts, the subject of Chapter 5, that London saw parliament’s cause past a crucial hurdle in the war against Charles I.