Civil War Writers

In the mid 17th century, English writers became bound up in the conflict that split a nation. Find out more about how they took part in and recorded the English Civil War.

civil war writers


The most celebrated poet of the Civil War period was John Milton, an enthusiastic Puritan who supported the execution of Charles I in 1649. Milton wrote poems in praise of Cromwell and Parliamentary general Sir Thomas Fairfax, and became an adviser to the Council of State. After the Restoration, Milton's works were publicly burned and he feared that he would be one of those executed for regicide, a fate he narrowly avoided.


During the years of the Commonwealth, poet Andrew Marvell served as Assistant Latin Secretary to John Milton. He had previously been a tutor to the children of Sir Thomas Fairfax. Marvell went on to become MP for Hull. His vehement opposition to the restored monarchy of Charles II meant that little of his work was published in his lifetime.


One of the most prominent Royalist writers was Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon. Initially a critic of Charles I, he changed his views and fought with the king. Rewarded with his title after the Restoration, he again criticised the monarchy and fell from favour. He wrote his account of the conflict, The History of the Rebellion, in exile.


The diaries of John Evelyn, found in an old clothes basket in 1817, gave a vivid account of the Civil War years. Evelyn was a Royalist whose ideas on pollution and city planning were ahead of their time and earned him a place at Charles II's court.


Unlike most writers sympathetic to the Parliamentary cause, John Bunyan actually joined the Roundheads and fought against the Royalist Cavaliers. Bunyan, an unrepentant Puritan, was later jailed for preaching without a licence. He wrote his most famous works, including The Pilgrim's Progress, in prison.


Women writers also left their views of the Civil War. Anne Fanshawe, a Royalist, gave her account in her Memoirs. Lucy Hutchinson, the wife of a prominent Republican, wrote Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson, though its depiction of the war from a Puritan perspective was deemed too controversial to be published after the Restoration and did not appear until 1806.