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Why did people go to war in 1642?

Case study 1: 1637-39 – Source 5

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Letter from a gentleman called Edward Norgate with Charles’s army against Scotland, 4 May 1639

(Catalogue ref: SP 16/420/45)

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SP16/420/45; letter from a man with King's army, 1639

What is this source?

This is an extract from a letter by Edward Norgate to a friend back in London called Robert Read. Norgate was part of Charles’s army against Scotland when he wrote this letter.


What's the background to this source?

In 1639 Charles was facing a major rebellion in Scotland. The rebels had signed a Covenant (an agreement) banning the new prayer book brought in by William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury. Charles could not put up with this challenge to his authority and had tried to crush the rebellion in 1638, but had failed.


It's worth knowing that...

Religion was very important to everyone in the 1600s. The church was a big employer. It was also the centre of social life. Above all, most people wanted to please God and go to Heaven, so they had strong views on how they should worship God.


Your turn: What can we learn from this source?

  1. What does this source tell us about the relationship between Charles and the Scots in 1639?
  2. What did Norgate think of the Scots?
  3. According to this letter, which side was being more reasonable?
  4. Do you accept this viewpoint?
  5. Does this source tell you whether the majority of people in England supported Charles against the Scots?
  6. Does this source give us any clues about why the kingdom went to war in 1642?