Westminster 1640–60

A royal city in a time of revolution

Author: J. F. Merritt

This book examines the varied and fascinating ways in which the series of non-monarchical regimes of England’s civil wars and interregnum interacted with the unique locality and community of Westminster. Westminster (as opposed to London) was traditionally viewed as the ‘royal’ city – the site of Whitehall Palace and the royal courts of justice, its Abbey reputed to be the ‘house of kings’, and its inhabitants assumed to be instinctive followers of the monarch and the royal court. Westminster emerges in this study as a site of extraordinary ambiguities and juxtapositions. The promoters of vigorous moral reformation and a sustained and often intrusive military presence coexisted uneasily with the area’s distinctive forms of elite sociability and luxury. The state’s foremost godly preachers performed in close proximity to royalist churchmen. More generally, the forces of political, religious and cultural conservatism can be observed on the very doorstep of parliament and non-monarchical regimes. Yet for Westminster as a whole, this was the time when the locality became tied to the state more tightly than ever before, while at key moments the town’s distinctive geography and local government played a significant role in shaping the political crises of the period. Chapters analyse the crisis of 1640-42, the use of Westminster’s iconic buildings and spaces by the non-monarchical regimes, the sustained military occupation of the locality, the problems of political allegiance and local government, the religious divisions and practices of the period, and the problematic revival of fashionable society in a time of political tension.

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‘…a rich and subtle book … Merritt appreciates that the process of gaining a better understanding of the nature and importance of seventeenth-century Westminster requires a thematic approach … her book explores military, religious and social issues, as well as spatial dimensions and questions of allegiance.'
Jason Peacey
January 2015

‘Merritt's study will be of immense interest to students of urban political culture … Impressive is Merritt's handling of the various parliamentarian regimes' attempts to project an aura of legitimacy in the former seat of kings.'
Elliot Vernon
Urban History
May 2015

‘This book follows on from Dr Merritt's previous work on Tudor and early Stuart Westminster, examining, for the first time, the locality where much of the English revolution took place.'
Ben Coates, History of Parliament
Parliamentary History
June 2016

‘This book suggests a new approach to the history of London in the Civil War and Revolution, one that takes full account of its topography and culture as well as its governmental structures … a meticulously researched and clearly explained discussion of a unique locality, the importance of which in this era has been seriously neglected.'
Thomas Leng
English Historical Review
May 2015

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