The English Civil Wars (1642-1651) were incredibly turbulent, dramatic, and significant. There are hundreds of boxes of records at The National Archives that contain rich stories about the events of the Civil Wars and those people who lived through them.
However, many of the individual documents contained in these boxes are not described in The National Archives’ catalogue, Discovery. As a result it can be difficult to access those stories.
I am a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership PhD researcher here at The National Archives and the University of Leicester. My project, ‘The experience of war widows during the mid-seventeenth century’ – which I’ve blogged about before – has led me to the records that The National Archives holds that relate to the Civil Wars, and in particular the lives of women. During the course of my PhD I have been part of an effort by specialists in the early modern team to make it easier to search and use some of the Civil War records by cataloguing them.
Throughout the period 1642-1660 parliament confiscated the estates of those who had fought for King Charles I, in order to punish them and to make financial gains for themselves. The records of this process are held within the files of the State Papers and they provide a valuable insight into the Civil War experience of those who opposed Parliament. Women whose husbands had fought and died for the King had their lands taken away and, alongside men who had also lost lands, they petitioned central Parliamentary committees in order to regain them. Within these files are documents that tell us what it was like for women who had been accused of siding with ‘the enemy’ to live through this uncertain period.
The records of the County Sequestration Committees (SP 28/205-218) are some of these. This committee was responsible for carrying out Parliament’s order that the estates of Royalists be confiscated. Local agents were charged with collecting the rents from the tenants of Royalist landowners and identifying potential estates to confiscate. The State Papers also hold the records of the central committees that these agents reported to; these are currently accessible via a calendar (The Committee for Compounding with Delinquents, SP 23) and a recently completed cataloguing project (The Committee for Sequestrations, SP 20).
This current cataloguing project, for parts of SP 28, is well underway. Whilst writing descriptions of these documents I have also aimed to discover what I can about how this series can inform our understanding of people’s experience of the Civil Wars. The boxes contain account books with lists of names of 17th century people who either owned confiscated lands or who were tenants on it. These are the names of people from all sectors of society and may provide some clues about the, often hidden, lives of ordinary people. A key priority for the project was to include as much detail relating to people and places on the catalogue. We started with my home county: Kent. Continue reading »