Lord Derby, Lancashire's highest-ranked nobleman and its principal royalist, once offered the opinion that the English civil wars had been a 'general plague of madness'. Complex and bedevilling, the earl defied anyone to tell the complete story of 'so foolish, so wicked, so lasting a war'. Yet attempting to chronicle and to explain the events is both fascinating and hugely important. Nationally and at the county level the impact and significance of the wars can hardly be over-stated: the conflict involved our ancestors fighting one another, on and off, for a period of nine years; almost every part of Lancashire witnessed warfare of some kind at one time or another, and several towns in particular saw bloody sieges and at least one episode characterised as a massacre. Nationally the wars resulted in the execution of the king; in 1651 the Earl of Derby himself was executed in Bolton in large measure because he had taken a leading part in the so-called massacre in that town in 1644.In the early months of the civil wars many could barely distinguish what it was that divided people in 'this war without an enemy', as the royalist William Waller famously wrote; yet by the end of it parliament had abolished monarchy itself and created the only republic in over a millennium of England's history.
Over the ensuing centuries this period has been described variously as a rebellion, as a series of civil wars, even as a revolution. Lancashire's role in these momentous events was quite distinctive, and relative to the size of its population particularly important. Lancashire lay right at the centre of the wars, for the conflict did not just encompass England but Ireland and Scotland too, and Lancashire's position on the coast facing Catholic, Royalist Ireland was seen as critical from the very first months.And being on the main route south from Scotland meant that the county witnessed a good deal of marching and marauding armies from the north. In this, the first full history of the Lancashire civil wars for almost a century, Stephen Bull makes extensive use of new discoveries to narrate and explain the exciting, terrible events which our ancestors witnessed in the cause either of king or parliament. From Furness to Liverpool, and from the Wyre estuary to Manchester and Warrington...civil war actions, battles, sieges and skirmishes took place in virtually every corner of Lancashire.