Civil war is rarely recommended as a recipe for economic growth, though Rousseau once argued this case in a spirited footnote to the Social Contract. Few advocates of unfettered competition take their logic so far. Certainly this viewpoint was not canvassed in England in the years before the outbreak of Civil War in 1642. The number of people who actively desired the war was small. Many of the participants probably shared instead the puzzlement and distress expressed by Sir Thomas Knyvett at the prospect of armed conflict: he thought it was ‘a lamentable condition, to consume the wealth and treasure of such a kingdom, perhaps the blood too, upon a few nice willful quibbles’.1 Neverthless Civil War did break out. This then raises the question of whether there were economic issues at stake among these ‘quibbles’ which proved so intractable. Was the war fought over issues of economic policy? Did the conflict also represent a clash of economic ideologies, royal paternalism against the laissez-faire doctrines of the Parliamentarians? This essay seeks to review the debate on these questions.
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