Historian uncovers truth behind a 'gentlemanly war'

THE ENGLISH Civil War was a 'gentlemanly affair', according to English Heritage, which is currently organising events marking the 350th anniversary of the conflict.

Actually, it was the most racist and barbaric war the British Isles has ever witnessed, says a historian specialising in 17th- century Britain.

Charles Carlton, professor of history at North Carolina State University, says the victorious Parliamentarian forces executed large numbers of prisoners, indulged in the racist slaughter of Scottish and Irish soldiers, and made a fortune by selling captured Welshmen and Scots into slavery.

Professor Carlton, a Briton, fears that the horror of the conflict will be largely ignored when English Heritage and Civil War re-enactment societies stage mock battles, sieges and other events over the next year, including a 3,000-strong re-

enactment of the Battle of Edgehill later this month.

His research - to be published by Routledge on 22 October - shows that virtually all Irish prisoners of war captured in England were murdered and that 35 per cent of all Scots prisoners died in captivity. Large numbers of Scottish and Welsh prisoners were sold for a shilling each to English-owned sugar plantations in the West Indies and worked to death.

By contrast, only 1.4 per cent of English prisoners captured by the Parliamentarians died in captivity.

Professor Carlton believes that these realities should not be excluded from the celebrations. 'They should remind people of the true horror. The conflict was not a romantic game but the worst war ever fought on British soil. The re-enactment organisations should take steps to let people know the reality.'

However, an English Heritage spokesman said: 'We're not going to turn our events into Sam Peckinpah films.'

Professor Carlton's claims are supported by Dr John Morrill, reader in early modern history at Cambridge University, who said the research had shown that the conflict involved the whole of the British Isles and was 'not just a squabble amongst the English nobility and gentry'.

Professor Carlton has examined hundreds of contemporary private and official letters, pamphlets and memoirs. He calculates that, of the 70,000 English Royalists captured, only 1,000 died or were murdered in captivity, compared with 7,000 out of 19,100 Scots. Of the 5,100 Scots captured at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, 4,000 subsequently died in Durham Cathedral or on sugar plantations in Barbados. There are no records of Irish Royalist prisoners, captured in England, being kept for any length of time. At least 770 are known to have been murdered.

The Parliamentarian authorities were not afraid to boast of their atrocities - one official pamphlet was called Welcome News from Ireland.

A news-sheet, The Parliamentarian Weekly Intelligencer, told how, in April 1644, an Irish Royalist troopship was captured, and the 70 soldiers and two female civilians on board were thrown overboard off the Pembroke coast.

The Intelligencer said how good it was that the Papists had 'drunk their bellyfull of salt water'. The captain responsible was thanked by Parliament and given a pounds 200 gold chain.

However, in England itself, Professor Carlton says, English combatants were treated worst by the Royalists, who massacred Parliamentarian garrisons at Leicester and Bolton.

But the Sealed Knot, one of the leading re-enactment societies, finds no wrong on either side. A spokesman said: 'We've never thought about the prisoners. After our battles everybody gets up and walks away. We play it like a huge board game.'

Going to the Wars: The experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638-1651, by Charles Carlton (Routledge pounds 25).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us