My past attacks on the use of hindsight as a tool for explaining the parliamentary politics of the 1620s were not based on any desire to evade the task of explaining the English Civil War. They were based on the belief that it was necessary to understand what did happen in the 1620s before it could become possible to use those events to shed light on the English Civil War. The argument was that the search for the causes of the Civil War had impeded any attempt to see the 1620s as they actually were. That was why I attempted to find out what had happened in the 1620s as a task in its own right, before going on to investigate the coming and the causes of the English Civil War.
It is only because I have already attempted both these questions, and provided answers at least to my own satisfaction, that I now feel free to look back again at the 1620s, and attempt to ask the question what issues, and what attitudes, distinguish a future Royalist from a future Parliamentarian during those years. This is, of course, a very different question from asking what were the key issues of the 1620s. Very often, the issues that transpire to be the best predictors of Civil War allegiance were, at the time, low-priority and poorly reported issues. Attempts to investigate them are not meant to endow them with an importance they did not necessarily possess at the time, nor to suggest any inevitability about the division of England along the lines they suggest. The Civil War was only one of many ways in which the English body politic might have been divided: under a different king, for example, quite different disagreements might have been forced to the surface as the agenda developed. Yet, once it is granted this is not the only way Englishmen might have been divided, it is still worth asking whether the division that actually surfaced corresponds to any visible division in the politics of the 1620s. None of this is an attempt to reopen the debate on “revisionism” in the 1620s. That debate has now acquired a half life of its own, and this article is not intended to take any part in it. It is, though, inevitably informed by thirteen years' work on the politics of the Long Parliament, and so incorporates perceptions of how different the 1620s were from the 1640s, which no other programme of work could have made equally intense.